Friday, December 8, 2017

William Gass on Writing and Rewriting

William Gass died on December 6, 2017 at the age of 93. I was drawn to him (or his work) for all the wrong reasons, at least at the beginning. Like him, I taught at Purdue in the Philosophy Department for many years. Like him, I ultimately moved elsewhere. He taught "Greek Philosophy," I taught "German Philosophy with special emphasis on Kant." He became I writer, I didn't. But I really appreciate his essays, and I wish I could write the way he does [did].

Gass had to say the following about Purdue: "I was at Purdue [1955-1969], which was a good school if you were in engineering or things of that sort. It had a really weak humanities group. But by the time I left Purdue, there was tons of money, because of Sputnik, coming into the university for a period of time. We had a graduate program, but when I came to Purdue it was just two other guys, and the department was called “History, Government, and Philosophy.” I mean, it was just nothing. And when I left, it was a Ph.D. program. So it was lucky that it was an expanding program." So much for Gass. I was myself hired by Purdue in 1983. It was—and is—still a good school "if you are in engineering." Philosophy was—and is—a relatively strong department in the Humanities.

About his writing process he said: "Something gets on paper, and then it gets revised, and then it gets revised, and then it gets revised. And then I’m finally at the end." That also resonates with me, though I find it hard to determine when I am "at the end."

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