William Gass

1997 Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime

photo of William Gass

William Gass is a novelist, essayist, philosopher, and teacher. Mr. Gass, whose books include Cartesian Sonata, The Tunnel, and Omensetter’s Luck, received the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. William Gass states in his essay Culture, Self, and Society , “A culture morally and functionally fails which does not let its crazies, its artists and its saints, its scientists and politicians, claim, on occasion, a higher law than its own congresses can pass, traditions permit, or conscience conceive.”

A native of the Midwest, Gass is Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis where he taught for over 30 years.  His writing career began in 1959 with the publication of several short stories. In 1966 came his first novel, Omensetter’s Luck, about life in an Ohio small town in the 1890s. Two years later he published In the Heart of the Heart of the Country , five stories dramatizing the theme of human isolation and the difficulty of love. Soon after came Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife , an experimental novella illustrated with photographs and typographical constructs intended to help readers free themselves from the linear conventions of narrative. His latest work, Tests of Time, is a collection of essays on topics such as experimental fiction, the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie, worship and religion, and Flaubert.

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