The World Within the Word is a landmark collection discussing Valéry, Henry Miller, Sartre, Freud, Faulkner, suicide, “art and order,” and the transformation of language into poetry and fiction. Revelatory and gorgeous, at turns humorous and devastating, the collection was first published by Knopf in 1978 and stands among Gass’s best and most provocative books.
“Gass is an ironist of the highest caliber (…) He is an impossible eminence grise of American letters, festooned with accolades; if there is any justice in the world he will one day get his Nobel prize (…) As an essayist, his prose is gorgeously musical, ticking along smoothly as if measured out by metronome. He composes miniature fugues and conducts cadenzas while meandering around his subjects” – New York Observer
“I have at least two good reasons for rejoicing in Mr. Gass’s book. One: It is by Mr. Gass, and, like his fiction…it is written with verve and a high spirit. Two: It raises by its practice a possibility raised in theory by Roland Barthes in The Pleasure of the Text, that knowledge itself may be delicious (Barthes’s italics). Mr. Gass will not thank me for suggesting that his book is best read as a sensuous experience, but the fact is (embarrassing to a sobersides like me) that his sentences, true or false, are pleasures. Reading them, I find myself caring about their truth or error to begin with, but ending up not caring as much as I suppose I ought, and taking them like delicacies of the palate.” – Denis Donoghue, The New York Times