A 1995 William H. Gass Novel Predicted Trump’s America

Alec Nevala-Lee in the New York Times:

William Gass in 1969.

“Consider how the titles of tyrants change,” the historian William Frederick Kohler once wrote. “We shall suffer no more Emperors, Kings, Czars, Shahs or Caesars, to lop off our limbs and burn our homes, kiddo, defile our women and bugger our boys; the masses make such appointments now; the masses love tyranny; they demand it; they dance to it; they feel that their hand is forming the First Citizen’s Fist; so we shall murder more modestly in future: beneath the banners of ‘Il Duce,’ ‘Der Führer,’ the General Secretary or the Party Chairman, the C.E.O. of something. I suspect that the first dictator of this country will be called Coach.”

Kohler’s words seem especially resonant today, and their power is undiminished by the fact that their author exists only as a character in a novel by William H. Gass. Gass, who died in 2017 at the age of 93, began working on “The Tunnel” in the late 1960s, and he finished it a quarter of a century later, when it was published by Alfred A. Knopf. Even under the best of circumstances, this plotless book of over 600 pages would have been one of the least commercial novels ever released by a major publishing house, and it had the additional misfortune of appearing halfway through a decade that was uniquely unprepared for its despairing vision of America. The critic Robert Kelly wrote in The Times Book Review: “It will be years before we know what to make of it.”

More here.