Former Shows & Episodes

Word Patriots

Mark Seinfelt

Word Patriots – William H. Gass, “The Tunnel,” and “Middle C”

In the first quarter of the last century the great men and women of literature were both numerous and grand and they routinely carried out radical and groundbreaking experiments in fictional form. Linguistic virtuosity was the order of the day.
Today, we live in a more sedate age, the so-called postmodern era which rejects the notion of high art and champions the quotidian. But don’t tell my guest that ….
Quintessential Word Patriot, novelist and philosopher William H. Gass describes himself as an unreconstructed modernist and if anyone in America is still writing today as if the world were well lost for art that person is Bill. Bill is one of the most important American authors of our time. His innovative works of fiction include “Omensetter’s Luck,” “Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife,” “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country,” “Cartesian Sonata” and the mammoth, monumentally original, and controversial novel “The Tunnel.” But perhaps Gass is best known for his seven volumes of sprightly, arch, audacious, masterfully crafted essays, which include “Habitations of the Word,” “Finding a Form” and “Tests of Time” all of which earned him National Book Critics Circle Awards for Criticism. He has received numerous other awards as well. His “Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation” received the PEN/American Nabokov Award and his most recent volume “A Temple of Texts” (2006) won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism. To any reader coming to his work for the first time, no matter which of Bill’s books he or she happens to open, from that book’s inaugural sentence it will be immediately manifest what a lapidary Bill is; how he polishes, sculpts and crafts everything he writes with utmost diligence and scrupulous care. Bill and I discuss the distinction between telling stories and fashioning fictions, the traditional view that true art is moral, the ends for which Bill writes, Bill’s mammoth, monumentally original novel “The Tunnel,” and Bill’s novel-in progress “Middle C.” If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: Also be sure to take a look at, a website exploring this esteemed American writer’s work and his readers’ reactions created and curated by Stephen Schenkenberg.