Point to and say see look at this great vil He threw a brick on Kristallnacht He kills an inconvenient cat He takes advantage of his studentsNasty but his sins are small scale of the heart And author William Gass has painted with words a picture of that heart and the darkness in which it dwells Yes we dig deep into that tunnel The danger for us the reader is finding our way out again for this is an xuisitely written book Bits of poetry keep jumping out of the page the rhythm of words and sentences drawing you in circling around and around in a most hypnotizing fashion There are whole sections of The Waste Land in here transposed into Gass s own words Detail is piled on detail too Images are created that seem to be from your own memoryI read The Tunnel at the same time as Wittgenstein s Mistress and there is a similarity Both are written by lonely people shouting into their typing paper s blankness Except for their memories they are in ffect all alone in the world But with The Tunnel I never doubted the presence of a human being It is ugly and beautiful It is mean It is wretched The random snatches of memories introduce us to the people who have been important in Kohler s life Wife Lovers Mentor Colleagues Parents It s all rather painful He has no kind thoughts or fond memories or sympathy for the broken people who raised him Yet ven through this mess of unreliable telling our heart aches for them all For the broken dreams For the twisted minds that can t be put rightThe text is filled with wordplay limericks letters literary and historical allusions An annotated version would be helpful though probably most of these references could be picked up by any well read person At least nough to know something is going on here There is much physical inventiveness too using devices such as concrete poems bold text script crossword puzzle design running down the pagevarious fonts Illustrations Here are some xamples From bits of Kohler s memory one of the people we meet is Susu So terrible yet so beautifully createdI came to hear skinny Susu sing in her low throaty Sprechstimme which was nevertheless French a song about the carrion crow It had innumerable verses and she never sang them all How her voice reached me through the noise and bulk of those bodies belly to belly like the bottles on the bar was a mystery belonging to magic than to science Her sounds were hesitant shy as though regretting they had come and hardly strong as the waitresses who dressed in costumes purportedly Bavarian lbowed veryone aside to slop down drinks Perhaps it was drawn to me as sucking insects are and became devious Certainly that song was thirsty for my blood and I never really heard any other Perhaps I shouldn t smoke so much Perhaps the roses will freeze In the camps a cigarette was often hard to come by We often smoked together you and I toes xuisitely touching once at the hips again at the lbows the smoke going off toward the ceiling in a lazy curl the way our bodies seemed to burn off after lovingSusu would sing it once very vening she would sing it with blank black doll s yes and a fixed sad smile she wore the way she wore her clothing absently scarcely moving her mouth Her dresses were cut in a deep V like the style you see in Lautrec s posters of Yvette Guilbert Sometimes yellow mostly green they were stretched so tight across her boyish braless chest the nipples leaped out from the fabric like bumps on pebbled water The song could have come from her Buried eyes just as well They never blinked I had a passion for that woman Immense Now I can t bear to have a table touch me In this house I avoid chairs with arms and sit in the middle of couches and then only on the yieldingdge I am impressed by what the world will swallow Mouths too I must confess no longer please meSusu I love you A little like the mantis I remember since her head would swivel slowly in the hard inhuman manner of the mantis and her face was blunted at its points like a badly damaged triangle Not you Lou You stood straight yet very curve was languorous smoothly moving You stood straight yet very curve was languorous smoothly moving a line drawn through the unobstructed space of sleep They fell when shot in all the ways open One could have made a study of such falling bodies the stance the weight the tension of the limbs the impact of the bullet I love you Susu anywaythat blank watchfulness which Susu had so
much of a watchfulness a mirror s you knew there was no of a watchfulness a mirror s you knew there was no behind something is watching something is watchful but what At the back of Susu s yes of course there was plenty there was Hieronymus Bosch there were diableries so my life lasts a little longer And what did I read about you Susu in those documents Susu my slender singer whom I love that you roasted the thumbs of a dozen Jews and ate them while they watched those who had not faintedWhen the smoldering Monro Cast Is under tow to New York snapped her lines and became snagged on a sand bar only a few yards off Convention Pier in Asbury Park bodies began to bob up on Asbury beaches 25 cents was charged to gaze upon the stricken ocean liner from the Hall at night people crept aboard to steal from the bodies and loot the ship hacking off fingers to get their rings while a mortician among the spectators on the pier passed out his business card Is there any way of digesting facts like this like this one as Susu digested the handy phallic thumb sticks of her Jews Why she didn t have their cocks cut I cannot imagine Wasn t that what she was up to Could she my Susu have shrunk at it Hers certainly wasn t an anti Semitic act because it violated the Nazis dietary laws Could she have sucked such thumbs without the Reich s grand plans could she have realized herself and come so splendidly upon her nature She might have sung songs all her life and fingered milkless leather dildoes who can tell Susu you at least became a true black ueen the vil you created was as close to you as you were you confronted it you took it evil you created was as close to you as you were you confronted it you took it your mouth added it uite palpably as weight as measurable nutrition to your hard flat stomached self In fact I always wondered just how much you were a woman No A man in drag that kind of rsatz ueen would fashion for himself an ampler bosom not so ample as my wife s perhaps there is a limit What did I find to admire ver in such flaps The Germans xecuted my Susu themselves Neither her xemplary performance as a commandant s whore nor her sweetly twisted songs and whispered singing could save her when they found she had some gypsy in her though after her head was amputated color photographs were taken and kept as souvenirs in little folding cases covered neatly in blue cloth with a small though conventional gold decoration Sing Susu through your severed head through your severed arteries and I shall put my mouth to your lips as though you were such an instrument My breath shall reinflate your brain Susu O bag of pipes I approach you in my dreams The deeper we go into The Tunnel the disturbing it is To look through such yes and to know that this too is what it means to be a human being It feels like I have been reading. Masterpiece The story of a middle aged professor who upon completion of his massive historical study Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany finds himself. For six hundred and fifty one pages Gass invites the reader to wade through a lifetime of memories dredged and at times perhaps cooked up by a caustically disillusioned and despairing professor of history at a midwest American university a reminiscence that functions as a delaying tactic against the completion of his life s work a massive xhaustively researched revisionist history of the Third Reich ntitled Guilt and Innocence in Hitler s Germany Beginning his recollection with Anaxagoras assurance that The descent to hell is the same from very place the confessor professor William Frederick Kohler proceeds from the purview of Life in a Chair an inveterate position in which his body and soul have become A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh, etiolated and flabbyven as his mind penetrates and cuts through the morass of his viscous ofttimes vicious memories with the keenness of a razor honed regularly by bemusement contempt ribald honesty and simmering rage From what details Kohler provides his life can be seen as consisting of brief periods of happiness and contentment usually sexually based that bob and float like scattered pockets of bright material The Shadow Reader encapsulated by defeat and disgrace humiliation and hatred betrayal and bewitchment all hopes hobbled andvery choice apparently made in Cinderella Unmasked (Fairytale Fantasies errorYet if the recurrentpisodes of his life seem irremediably fruitless the materials the rituals the gewgaws the routine actions in themselves are sometimes lucidated with a trancelike levity that burnishes them with light than they inherently possess Born of an angry bullying father and an alcoholic bullied mother starring throughout childhood in one miserable dysfunctional pisode of Father Knows Best after another Kohler sought to leave this familial failure behind and The Power Of A Choice embrace a future freed from the clutches of small town Git r Done America yet he has wound up back in the mid west fabled tableland of that mythological stalwart the Average American married to a corpulent woman who despises his mind and refuses her body father to two boys one of whom is never named outright that he detests with a richness that is apparently returned in kind and teaches history that he doesn t believe in to students he holds to be a tedious admixture of ovine and bovine whilst sharing office space with four colleagues who by snobbery meekness cholera and gimcrackery are draining the very air he breathes of any remaining traces of oxygen Adulteries of a teacher student timber and flashpoint arcing remembrances of his periods spent in post and pre war Germany where he was taught much by anccentric scholar Mad Meg in the Maelstrom including the occluded reality that lies behind History and Historical truth that history is but a myth imagined from the past as an assurance for the future the fabricated story that details a prior configuration of time bound space that is desired but unknowable form the primary substance of those meagre portions of his banal stretched xistence that could be described with any measure of fondnessThis is a book that really vokes the full range of a reader s motions wonder and weariness xasperation and xaltation loathing and laughter profound appreciation and mounting desperation but most of all an amazed joy at beholding page after page of diamond like prose that sings and soars penned by a master To have the gift of writing that Gass puts on display throughout The Tunnel is a marvelous thing to behold one that redounds in many ways I can certainly understand why many readers have abandoned the book done in by Gass lemon loaf trickery during the first ighty or so pages it is almost as if Gass is trying to drive the reader away testing their patience to the limit in an Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling effort tonsure that only the most dedicated survive the ordeal or the disturbing and vile character whose mind the reader is forced to inhabit for an xtended period of often unpleasant time Kohler is indeed a nasty piece of business yet I really think Gass achieved something remarkable here a semi autobiographical novel that piece of business yet I really think Gass achieved something remarkable here a semi autobiographical novel that the implacable reality of that anger and resentment the crushed xpectations and purblind nvy that amass in increasing amounts in subcutaneous hollows like charcoal a vast reservoir of spiritual fuel spread across the commercial realms of modernity with
a ferocious untapped potential for nergy to be harnessed by the ferocious untapped potential for nergy to be harnessed by the tones and darkling yes of the demagogue the messianic leader and channeled into a tribal tsunami of ruinous and murderous strength The commonest uestion aroused by the horrors of Nazi Germany is How could so many average ordinary Germans have participated in Hitler s madness Gass in a tale that attempts an honesty in dissecting the uotidian defeats and retreats in one intelligent but alienated man s life probes the shadowy xistence of the totalitarian demon that lurks within the neighbour the co worker the family member the friendIt gradually merges that Kohler was no stranger to the fury of Kristallnacht and in his middle years of disappointment tunneling deep into his isolation while he tunnels physically through the Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. earth of his basement prison he creates the PdP the Party of the Disappointed People The PdP is born of the desire to be on the side of the strong to be one of those wielding the whip against the weak and persecuted to be a glorious part of the regnant force that revels in trampling impartial justice underfoot in order to dish out what is deserved For Kohler it is a one man party and in hisually willful wife Gass has penned a feminine avatar of western democratic force who when push comes to shove and the dirt is discovered meets the underground furtiveness and shadowy furor of the subterranean professor with a grim but calm resolve indeed almost terrifyingly so that proves than a match for her hidebound husband whose place in the household structure is once made perfectly clear but resentment becomes powerful its means less hidden its potential for violence real as it Patrick the Wolf Boy, Volume 1 enjoins itself with other like wounded souls The PdP as a one man show of doodling and riffing and brooding will perforce back down but given time to amass converts its spine would stiffen and its arms become muscled the fire in itsyes flare bright nough to light the way forward Disappointed with husband or wife with work or with home with children or parents wracked by the daily drive to get up to move about to arn to achieve to do how many people would grasp the opportunity to join the PdP and Glitter Bomb (A Scrapbooking Mystery, empty the reserves of bottled anger in choleric flood upon the world Perhaps a handful perhaps a small crowd perhaps millions Being William Kohler The Tunnel is a sort of portal through which wenter into the head of one William Frederick Kohler We poke around in his memories and his thoughts xploring all the little twists and turns of his mind The uestion of how a child goes from innocence to becoming a monster is answered through Kohler s ramblings and flashbacksBut monster is the wrong word here He never achieves anything that grand There is no murder or torture No scheme to dominate the world Nothing one could. Thirty years in the making William Gass's second novel first appeared on the literary scene in 1995 at which time it was promptly hailed as an indisputable.
free read The TunnelThis for as long as Gass spent writing it it s a hefty tome and not asy to read The primary character around whom all this revolves is William Frederick Kohler I am reliably informed that in the US the word Kohler has plumbing connotations He is a middle aged history professor at a mid western university who has just completed writing his magnum opus Guilt and Innocence in Hitler s Germany He is struggling to write the introduction and reflecting on his life and marriage Kohler is trying to scape from his life and a symptom of this is the fact that he is digging a tunnel from his cellar under the yard As one reviewer says the whole is a plotless stream of notes which covers his awful childhood his deteriorating relationship with his wife his infidelities with his students politics with other lecturers and his general loneliness Embedded in it all is an undertone of vitriol and bigotry Kohler however is an ual opportunities bigot he hates veryone and adeptly insults and abuses all who are not him He doesn t like himself ither It is driven by language and in some ways has a Dickensian feel only child raised in a bleak town with an alcoholic mother and a bullying father Gass could have painted the childhood he does paint at the beginning of the book to get the reader onside with Kohler and to create a sense of journey and understanding He doesn t do this he starts with the middle aged Kohler who is sex obsessed repulsive sharing some of the fascist views of those he writes about and seducing students And Gass lays it on making Kohler deliberately cartoonish in his repulsiveness There are plenty of cultural references which non Americans will probably struggle with and perhaps those who are younger A whole section on the sweets and candies of childhood would probably be a delight to readers of a certain age What there is not certainly near the beginning of the novel is interaction with other characters We spend most of the time with Kohler in his head Kohler s views on Hitler and the Nazis are also challenging Kohler believes he would have followed Hitler Kohler puts in a plea for the abuser because it s Globalization: A Multi-Dimensional System, Third Edition easy to be a victim He is accustomed to making off the cuff remarks that are staggering offensive such as I ve been in bedrooms as bad as Belsen Clearly untrue and just adds to the reader s picture of Kohler Kohler is an awful character routinely racist sexist and offensive A number of uestions arise Obviously one asks how much Gass identifies with his creation Gass has answered that himself To write of such a man you have to know loneliness of course but only of the kind thatveryone has Billionaires Contract Engagement (Kings of the Boardroom experienced at one time or another It s like the terrible blizzards I once put in a short story I had neverxperienced blizzards like that but I had Sexual Secrets experienced snow You just turn up the volume One rather clever reviewer made a comment about Gass sitting in a chair for thirty years writing a novel about a man sitting in a chair for thirty years writing a book Another uestion that occurred relates to a British sitcom of the 1960s Till Death Us Do Part written by Johnny Speight It was about an East End Londoner called Alf Garnett and his family played by Warren Mitchell Garnett was racist sexist obnoxious and anti Semitic and was meant to be so outrageous that it would be obvious that it was a satire Speight was working out his issues with his own father as Kohler was doing He was shocked when Garnett was treated as a hero who represented the feelings of many ordinary people in the US the series was redone with the main character being Archie Bunker Does Kohler feed into that sort of feeling There are certainly people around like Kohler He s not a criminal murderer or the sort of monster who populates popular fiction He is an ordinary university lecturer in an ordinary town Gass has argued that history is about values and their weighing up Gass veryffectively sums up his creation and why he is as he is Kohler is a master of sophist reasoning He certainly knows right from wrong but that does not guarantee
THAT ONE WILL MAKE THE RIGHTone will make the right Plato said that no one would knowingly do vil I think people knowingly do vil all the time for selfishness or revenge or all sorts of reasons Evil has always given pleasure than virtue and we don t really like virtuous people there s contradiction and confusion and deliberate darkness In terms of the writing Gass produces verbal pyrotechnics on very page and it is certainly the work of a great writer There is also a good deal of truly awful poetry crude and offensive limericks particularly those about concentration camps Kohler seems to loathe women most of them but his base and inner feelings probably reflect a strain in men which insists on pursuing the illusion of youth The font changes and there are drawings and sketches and a whole variety of other stuff Given all the above what do I feel It is a great book a great literary novel I didn t love it in the same way I did Omensetter s Luck but I don t think it is a book to be loved It s not comfortable or asy The scholarship on The Tunnel makes that clear For me Gass is saying that whatever caused the Holocaust and the rise of Nazism it s still there alive in people like Kohler who just need to be led and captivated The Tunnel captures the ordinariness of human vil There are so many possible ways of xistence We have not lived the right life But is there the right life to be lived The Tunnel belongs among those books one drowns in like in the delugeThe man of action has a destiny a star he follows and it draws him on like the Magi or so it s said the taillight of a car it s said the flag of a deer The creator courts the muse pays tribute and pursues sucks sips sniffs puffs pops screws for the favor of his Fancy The visionary sees the future like a dream draped dressmaker s dummy as silks pinned to the canvas skin of a shameless wire veined manikin But we historians we poets of the past tense we wait for our tutelary spirits to find us we sit in one place like the spider and until that little shiver in the web signals the Purely Sexual enmeshment of our prey we look within for something to lighten our nightmare the weight of our patience the fluorescent face of a bedside clock forxample namel nailshine bleached sheetThe protagonist and narrator is a historian but he is a mountebank a uack scientist fake Faust He wants to make a pact with the devil but Mephistopheles can t buy his soul because he is a fraud as well because heroes are creatures created by ignorance like infatuations they are born of hype of superstition FRAUD AS ARE GODS SAINTS AND MOVIE STARS AND as are gods saints and movie stars and all pass into legend myth romance still further fictions like clouds into cloudsConseuently the hero of the novel is nothing but a worm and a worm needs a wormhole And he starts digging the tunnel a private passage to his personal hell And the worm being hates the light the world and veryone in this world Love has its limits but hatred is boundless In order to xist hate must like a worm devour verything on its way And hate slowly devours the hater too. Writing a novel about his own life instead of the introduction to his magnum opus The Tunnel meditates on history hatred unhappiness and above all languag.