Re: Omensetter's Luck by William H. Gass
Posted by Steven on 11/11/2011, 14:08:51, in reply to "Re: Omensetter's Luck by William H. Gass"
Interesting thoughts about Omensetter and Amadeus. I saw the film when it was released, but not since, so I don't recall it that well.
I agree that Jethro Furber was the principal character. Omensetter himself didn't so much act as a character as exist as an idea in the minds of Pimber and Furber.
I was struck by the similarities and contrasts between Furber and the Rev. Gwyon in The Recognitions by William Gaddis. Both introduce pagan elements into their sermons to the bewilderment of their congregations, and both have an obsessive interest in sexuality. Gaddis and Gass were friends and only a couple years apart in age, though The Recognitions came a decade earlier than Omensetter's Luck.
So how did Henry get up the tree? Murder or suicide? Is it meant to be a symbolic climbing toward grace? Are we to note the contrast between the fox down the well and the man up the tree? Or is it just the outcome of a sordid affair between Omensetter and Henry's wife?
: I thought this was an excellent novel, and I may well
: read it again shortly. It is extremely oddly
: structured. The first chapter takes place many years
: after the end of the main story. It is partially
: stream of consciousness of an otherwise extremely
: minor character. This is followed by a section that
: presents a good deal of the "plot," if you
: can call it that. We are then finally introduced to
: Furber, who, in my opinion, is the true protagonist of
: this story. We spend about 80 pages of extremely
: difficult, partially incoherent, stream of
: consciousness in Furber's mind. While none of the
: book is exactly easy, this was, to me, by far the most
: difficult part. We then have continued fragments of
: story and Furberage, until the last 80 pages, which
: seem to be primarily dialogue with no quotes and no
: explicit indications of who is speaking. These final
: pages contain the most "story" oriented
: portion of the novel.
: I was somewhat reminded of the play (and popular
: movie) "Amadeus." The protagonist of
: Amadeus is Salieri, a man who has devoted years of
: study and hard work to learning and polishing the
: craft of music composition. He is envious and
: outraged at the wonder that is Mozart, who is
: portrayed as generally rather stupid. Stupid, but
: with possibly the most amazing pure musical talent the
: world has ever seen (heard). Salieri can not
: understand why God would lavish this incredible gift
: on the feckless Mozart, while all but ignoring him.
: Similarly, Furber is offended and outraged by
: Omensetter's luck which is, I think, equated with
: grace (in the Christian sense). Furber practices the
: form of being a preacher without a belief in God. He
: wishes to terrify his congregation as a fire and
: brimstone preacher, but he only succeeds in confusing
: and offending them. He is not held in the respect and
: regard that a preacher in that time and place could
: reasonably expect, because the townspeople of Gilean
: recognize his madness and spite and hold him in
: contempt. However, Furber clings to some of the forms
: of the church. If there were a God, Furber would
: imagine that grace is bestowed through the sacraments,
: essentially the Catholic point of view. Like Salieri,
: he is offended and enraged that the otherwise
: unremarkable Omensetter should be bestowed with luck
: (grace) unearned. That grace flows from God without
: consideration of our own merits is essentially the
: Protestant view.
: Much more interestingly than the end of Amadeus,
: Omensetter risks his marriage and the life of his son
: by relying on his luck, which he once took for
: granted. He becomes terrified that his
: "luck" will be withdrawn if he does not put
: his full faith in it. There is irony in that Furber
: and the people of Gilean have identified this
: "luck" and brought it to Omensetter's
: attention. His faith is largely an imposed construct.
: Incidentally, if there is any influence between Gass's
: novel and Shaffer's play, it runs toward Amadeus.
: Omensetter's Luck was published in 1966, Amadeus was
: first performed in 1979.
: --Previous Message--
: I finished our November book last night. How are the
: rest of you coming?
: Omensetter's Luck is a stunning novel that reminds
: me a lot in its language and characters of The
: Recognitions by William Gaddis (in addition to having
: similar names the two authors were apparently
: friends), and, in the way it uncages the human tiger,
: to Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
: I have copies of all of Gass's other fiction. Are we
: serious about following this up with The Tunnel ? It
: is 650 pages and looks to be even harder. I'll read it
: eventually, but I won't rush into it unless others are
: planning to read it this month.
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