47 thoughts on “The Tunnel – William H. Gass


    Pages 3 – 5

    “… the world … the world, alas. It is Alice committing her Tampax to the trash.”

    I have looked through this huge book before embarking on it. I am convinced that, based on my age and health, I shall never finish it. Nor judging by its whole look and feel and textual landscape will I ever fully understand it. But I intend to try.
    A tunnel towards death….?

  2. Pages 9 – 12
    “I pick up my dropped life in this calamitous century’s sixty-seventh year;”
    William talks of his diary or is it William talking about Kohler’s diary about William having it off in Mad Meg’s chair?
    The prose style literary and chewy.

  3. Pages 39 – 45

    “Yet Hitler — the dissembler, the liar, the hypocrite, the mountebank, the deluder, the con man, the sophist, the manipulator, the dreamer, the stage manager, and the ultimate ham — he was probably history’s single most sincere man.”

    “…that fractured plurality of egos, I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I … they are a decorative fence, a Jewish exclamation, a nest of hurdles, warning siren, engine puffing, iron track, clever mechanical birdie, zipper’s straddle…”

  4. Pages 57 – 76

    Much ado about books and habits with books, sexual or not. Hit on the head by Hardy’s ‘Return of the Native.’.
    And consciousness of his small member…
    And still much more than I can tell you about.
    (I wrote about Trumpexit today here.)

    “What is a book but a container of consciousness, a draft of cantos? Through a curtain of concepts I watch blemishless girls, young Kierkegaard in all his disguises, Empedocles as a fish, bird, and girl, Stendhal and Byron like boys about their boasting, Boswell accosting his whores, Cellini another braggart, honest Casanova, Pepys at table, Henry Miller, Gide committing Chopin and other indiscretions,…”

  5. Pages 76 – 96

    “From the peak of my book death stretches away like a valley crossed with lazy streams.”

    “The sea — the sea as I sink is like gray porch paint, thick as treacle.”

    “Often when I’ve dreamed, though I dream rarely, I’ve dreamed I leaped from dream to dream as fancy let’s me skip sometimes through books:”

    “Even the points and prints I sometimes leave upon the page no longer look like a labyrinth where the very identity its pattern is supposed to guarantee in fact threatens to lose me in its aimless turns and tangled threads. Nevertheless, each smudge makes a mysterious and magical map, and if I let my mind be dizzied by its designs, I may suddenly find I’ve pierced the paper like a sharpened nib. So.”

  6. Pages 96 – 107

    What has been unleashed on the world?
    Here in the shape of various forms of dust, in staggering prose.
    In fact this whole book has staggering prose so far. Almost too much to cope with. Like issuing a new executive order with each sentence.


    “When I write about the Third Reich, or now, when I write about myself, is it truly the truth I want? What *do* I want? to find out who I am? What is the good of that? I want to feel a little less uneasy. We drag our acts behind us like a string of monsters. I am the Reich, the third son, the remains. This sort of thing — confession — this father-forgive-me stuff — is not in my line. My thoughts to fly out like Zeno’s arrow…”

  7. Pages 107 – 126

    Inter alios, a portrait when the narrator was 10 of his Uncle Balt, a man “shaped of absence” –

    “”–unfamiliar with the thickness of his hair or how, if at all, it was ‘styled.'”

  8. Pingback: Culpagrams | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: The site of DREAMCATCHING hyper-imaginative fiction books.

  9. –> Page 185

    “…and I said to you simply, Dance the orange (a quotation from Rilke),…”

    “History, in fact, is horse drop, cow plop, nose snot, rope knot, flesh rot, ink blot, blood clot, street shout.”


  10. Page 191

    “…when I slipped a breast out of that student’s bra (it was little Rue — what work it was to coax that lovely nipple into my mouth! cliché calls it a berry, got that right, it was), and consequently got home late and hot under the zipper…”

  11. Page 192

    “It is already obvious, isn’t it? that Germany was not the loser of our last European war (if we set aside her present schizophrenia), Great Britain was. All that’s left of it is England like a set of trophy antlers.”

  12. Page 195

    MASS MAN MEANS MASS MURDER. Can that qualify as a slobweb? Could be a Culpagram. But probably it’s only a slowcon. Holocaust, Hiroshima: warm-up tosses in the bullpen, dearies.”

    Page 196

    “Nature’s way of safely decreasing the population is to increase the numbers of queers, queers of all kinds: bachelors, old maids, monks, masturbators, butches, buggerers, suck-offs, idiosyncrats. We are even subdividing Hades.”

    “Anvils arrive with comforting irregularity, occasionally striking a bus which then explodes its people like pus from a boil. Each person bursts in turn and cameras fly out of the nose and eyes.”

  13. –> Page 244

    “I built a barricade. My kids tried to dissuade me with lemonade and language, but I built it anyway. […] What does it still need, deep, tall as it is? . . . like spikes atiptop, gleaming canisters of hiss.”

    –> Page 259

    “It does not take a mind for there to be madness; we have always been mad; madness was before mind; and then contagion takes place . . . seeping inside the soul . . . the syph . . . contagion . . . the syph of religion, hey?”

    “: whatever truth turns out to be, including the possibility that the truth was turned out of this world like a disgraced daughter long ago;”

  14. Page 273

    “Mad Meg wasn’t to die in midcry, amid the consternations of his concepts, full of his own vinegar and other people’s piss. He would die in his shroud, chilled to the skin, and consequently cold beyond mere touch, a cold which began within the soul and froze its way out.”

  15. Page 301

    “Books of black pages, they lie heavily on my knees. Windows to the past, they once were, these sheaves of photographs, these albums all in corkface, in mourning. They commemorate a time when families could still put their mark upon a man or woman; back before the genes were carelessly dissipated like piss from a plane.”

  16. –> Page 328

    “(Now, of course, I lie as if the truth depended on it.) The common run detest me, I thought, so why shouldn’t I detest the common run? Yet here I am, the founder of the Party of the Disappointed People.”

    “Welcome to history. To personality and pleasure, immediate motives and margins of profit. To the stealthy operations of the human ego, to vice as the honest and homely vector of events.”

  17. Page 384

    “But the Party of the Disappointing Penis needed a leader, and I was called. I had to answer such a summons. I had to debunker myself and confront my fate. Well, the Führer had gathered an army of dorks to toast his weenie, what would I do to similarly celebrate mine?”

  18. AN ASIDE

    “However, between the time that I proposed this particular paper topic and now, something historically monumental happened which makes The Tunnel vitally relevant: the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States (and the rise of the alt-right in general). That is to say, the overarching theme of The Tunnel —which Gass has described as “the fascism of the heart”— makes the book amazingly and unfortunately up-to-date. Perhaps an appropriate secondary title for my paper would be “A Text Suddenly of Our Time.””

    From “Modernism’s Last Gasp and the Architecture of William H. Gass’s The Tunnel” by Ted Morrissey

  19. –> Page 455

    “No one wants the truth, he always argued. Its possibility is despised. And if it existed, it would nevertheless be ignored: the ugly slut that sits outside of the system, with nothing to offer but despair and constraint.”

    “Who is more convincing, the son of a God who is fiction made into history, or the son of Satan who is history made from a fiction?”

  20. –> Page 474

    “If people disliked in me what I dislike in them, I wouldn’t dislike them. We would have reached an understanding.”


    “No. I have to be deliberate about my lies. I’d better not try to — what does Culp call it? — wing, yes, wing it.”

    “How easily the weenie is aroused. We have to work over women as though their engine were in a used car.”

    “Judges needed to be judged, the Führer learned, guards guarded, the Führer discovered, spies spied upon, the Führer found; the untrustworthy could not be trusted to remain so, and once certain people had been trained to lie and steal and murder on your behalf, they were likely to begin to cheat and filch and kill on their own.”

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