Heart-of-the-heartTyler Curtis at The Quarterly Conversation:

This persistence of language in spite of its logic, in spite of itself, is not unique to Gass by any measure. In his essay on E. M. Cioran, “The Evil Demiurge,” Gass takes the aphorist to task for espousing a philosophy he considers nothing more than crude pessimism. For Gass, Cioran’s writings are “extraordinarily careless pieces of reasoning, travel[ing] from fallacy to fallacy with sovereign unconcern, deal[ing] almost wholly with borrowings.” But in his own fiction, Gass too falls prey to the same kind of indulgence in callousness and misanthropy: “You are a skull already—memento mori—the foreskin retracts from your teeth. Will your plastic gums last longer than your bones, and color their grinning? And is your twot still hazel-hairy, or are you bald as a ditch? . . . bitch . . . . . . bitch . . . . . . . . . bitch. I wanted to be famous, but you bring me age—my emptiness.” Gass’ rage against the world is made painfully obvious in his attempts to degrade it and its inhabitants. Like Cioran, his most venomous moments seem uncharacteristic and almost certainly gauche when measured against the care with which he’s chosen their language and pieced together its form. One can’t help but wonder to what degree they are self-conscious or even tongue-in-cheek, or if they’re simply unsophisticated spasms of dissonance, lapses into brute rage, stewing behind the veneer of otherwise masterful prose.

Gass does note that in spite of Cioran’s philosophical shortcomings, his poeticism manages to rise above, and this is why Cioran endures: “as Susan Sontag points out . . . there is nothing fresh about Cioran’s thought . . . except its formal fury. His book has all the beauty of pressed leaves, petals shut from their odors; yet what is retained has its own emotion, and here it is powerful and sustained.” It’s his style, the immediacy of his aphorisms and his language, not necessarily the logic behind them, that’s immortalized his work. Similarly Gass’ aesthetic trumps the adolescent angst that too often permeates his work and threatens to compromise its integrity.

more here.