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"Reading these essays is like watching a glass blower at work over the flame, seeing his forms emerge-at times amusing trinkets, at times vessels of beauty and purpose... The vases of Mr. Gass's making (something like extruded golden bowls with nearly undetectable flaws) would be in such a thoughtful essay as 'The Story of the State of Nature,' in which he mounts, in clear expository fashion, an entire history of narrative."-Maureen Howard, New York Times Book Review "Gass's commitment to ideas, concentrated energy and originality shine through on every page... These pieces deal with Ezra Pound as a failed modernist; the lives of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein in relation to their thought; various species of the avant-garde from Pierre de Ronsard to Degas, Beckett and the Bauhaus; the exacting demands of autobiography; the Pulitzer Prize Committee's 'banal and hokey' choices in fiction; and the abyss between the moral viewpoints expressed in works of art and the lives of their creators. Gass's deeply felt essays ... are quotable, flecked with fertile insights and a pleasure to read."-Publishers Weekly (starred review) "These essays showcase precision intellectual workmanship, displaying intricate multifaceted models of how writing and thinking relate to life."-Kirkus Reviews