william h. gass interview


BLVR: How much, if at all, do you concern yourself with entertaining the reader? It seems to me that even when The Tunnel is in tremendously dark territory, or when On Being Blue is entering a heady philosophical patch, the texts are still enormously entertaining—lively, daring, playful. Is entertaining the reader something you address consciously?

WG: No. The reader is somebody I don’t pay much attention to. But I do have a very conscious desire not to be academic. I’m antiacademic. I hate jargon. I hate that sort of pretension. I am a person who [commits] breaches of decorum—not in private life, but in my work. They are part of my mode of operation. That kind of playfulness is part of my nature in general. The paradox that, in a way, to take something very seriously, you can’t always be serious about it.

It is true—I have to take it back—I do think of my reader, or listener, really, more often, if I give a lecture, for example, and I know that I’m talking to these people; I enjoy sort of preening them a bit. But it’s a matter of decorum, basically. And I hate ideologies of all kinds, so I avoid jargon. I’ve done enough philosophy to know that some specialized terms are really needed. I don’t complain when Kant does it. Or when Aristotle introduces all kinds of new words; he needed them. But these other people are just obfuscating. It just makes me annoyed.

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