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Abstractions Arrive: Having Been There All the Time

Text By William H. Gass | Photographs by Michael Eastman



1. The Concrete Seeks the Abstract — Where It Has Always Been Most at Home

It was an age of triumph. It was an age of shame. It was an age of anxiety. It was an age of blame. It was an age of rebirth and rebuilding, of wars rekindling. It was an age of mistrust and suspicion, of faith in decline. It was an age of innocence. It was an age of sin without redeemer or redemption. It was an age of insanity — craze succeeding craze. It was an age of returning normalcy. It was an age of accelerating change: things coming — in a wink — into being, things passing — with the swiftness of a sneeze — quite away. It was, in short, much like every other age.

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2. Photography Arrives Among the Arts, Having Been There All Its Life

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3. The Concrete Seeks the Abstract: Where it has always been most at home

Painting, poetry, music, slowly freed themselves from the tyranny of the referent, though there were, and still are, repeated attempts to become a loyal subject of the Subject once again, because a “purified” art is often envious of content’s continued success in popular culture, its importance in totalitarian countries, or with bourgeois critics. Fiction still writhes in the strangulating grip of a comforting though sensationalized realism, and the theatre pretends Godot got here, if only on a late train, and that his triune form is composed of class, sex, and race.

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Contributors & Notes

William H. Gass — essayist, novelist, literary critic — was born in Fargo, North Dakota. He is the author of several works of fiction, including Eyes, Middle C, The Tunnel and Omensetter’s Luck, and many books of essays, including Life Sentences, A Temple of Texts, Tests of Time, and Finding a Form. A former professor of philosophy at Washington University, Gass is the recipient of The Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, the Lannan Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the first Pen/Nabokov Award, and many other decorations. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, the architect Mary Henderson Gass. An unofficial website for readers of Gass’ work can be found at http://readinggass.org.

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