I hope others will be joining the two of us in this discussion. In the meantime I read another of Gass's books, his shortest one, and this is the review I posted:
Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife is a short piece of experimental fiction metaphorically representing Language's plaintive cry to the reader not to be ignored, taken for granted, or under-appreciated.
There are multiple narrations, often parallel on the same page and set apart by typography, some fragmentary, and in various voices. The principal, and only identified, narrator is Babs Masters, a former stripper, Vaudeville actress, perhaps prostitute, and now the neglected wife of Willie Masters. Through typographic gimmicks and other devices (including tasteful nude photographs of the supposed narrator) this novel throws itself upon the reader's attention the way the stripper bares herself to the audience, but to what end?
"These words are all I am. Believe me. Pity me. Not even the Dane is any more than that. Oh, I'm the girl upon this couch, all right, you needn't fear; the one who's waltzed you through these pages, clothed and bare, who's hated you for her humiliations, sought your love, just as the striptease dancer does, soliciting male eyes for cash and feeling the light against her like a swelling organ. Could you love me? Love me then . . . then love me . . . Yes. I can't command it. Yet I should love, if ever you would let me, like a laser burning through all foolish ceremonials of modesty and custom, cutting pieties of price and parentage, inheritance and privilege, away like stale sweet cake to sick a dog. My dears, my dears . . . how I would brood upon you: you, the world; and I, the language."
This is a very interesting work, more of a prose poem than a novel, that readers who like metafiction or experimental fiction will probably enjoy as I did.
I think this book--it's hard to call it a novel--would appeal to those who like David Markson, John Barth, Harry Mathews, or Robert Coover. It's quite different from, but in a way supportive of, Omensetter's Luck It was first published in 1968.
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