The Tunnel Paperback – Feb 1996
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A strange and monumental novel that took William Gass three decades to write. When a Midwestern historian sits down to write the introduction to his magnum opus study of the Third Reich, he instead writes a chaotic, obscure and labrynthine exploration of his personal history. Then he begins digging a tunnel from the basement of his house. The writing, the digging, and the reader's reading blend into one profound meditation on history, evil, the living and the dead. PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist.
From Publishers Weekly
This long-awaited magnum opus by the dean of American prose modernists, 30 years in the making, is a terrible disappointment. In this endless ramble of a novel, Gass (Omensetter's Luck; In the Heart of the Heart of the Country), though here, as always, possessed of a bewitching and spectacularly fluid and allusive style, fails to find a suitable home for his narrator's wickedly dyspeptic views of history, marriage and culture. William Kohler is a Midwestern academic historian working on an introduction to his life's work-a massive study of "guilt and innocence in Hitler's Germany." This, however, and the fact that Kohler begins to secretly dig a tunnel out of his basement, are the only shards of plot in this otherwise formless book. Gass, as readers of his fiction and gorgeous literary essays will know (On Being Blue), can turn a phrase and render lyrical descriptions that have not only music to them, but also shape and weight. But in portraying the failed career and life of Kohler, these gifts are brought to bear on such a litany of sour rant-about his aging body, his wife's widening girth, the fatuous enthusiasms of his colleagues and mentors-that the reader will beg for a way out of this dark and airless space. Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of The Tunnel, and the promise of a new perspective on our century's most heinous crime-the Holocaust-is very much a forgotten vow.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I liked the conceit of the Party for Disappointed People. I liked many of the one liners. I admired Gass' writing ability. Mostly I admired the project even if I confess that I couldn't like the book.
652 pages of dense (often unreadable) prose with a grotty poorly-endowed main character who has affairs with his students, kills his wife's cat and generally feels sorry for himself. Whoosh. It took me weeks to read, and *nothing* takes me weeks to read. I genuinely tried to follow everything in the book, but I have to confess that my grasp of his German experiences is spotty and I never really got Susu. The clearest and most readable bit was the bitchy backbiting about his colleagues in the department where he teaches. That was at least funny.
Generally, I felt like it tried way too hard to be a huge sprawling classic. I agreed with much of what it said about history and how you approach it-- again, the project is what I admired. Maybe I just couldn't feel too much for a book that seems to reject any ability to feel joy or to be anything except disappointed. I mean I *love* Beckett, but Gass isn't Beckett and I never got the feeling that he earned all that bitterness. Kohler isn't sympathetic either as a hero or as an anti-hero and while I guess that's part of the point, I didn't find that I admired the point.
Maybe I'm just not literary enough. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky. Anything is possible. Read it yourself and see.
Or this one. This novel, 30 years in the making, is a most bewildering ream of paper: a sprawling mental maze with enough font styles, shifting text margins, bleak sex and all-round aesthetic malarkey to strain the commitment of the most devoted reader.
Here's what I made of it. The narrator, a German History professor named William Frederick Kohler, has just completed a new book about the Third Reich, Guilt & Innocence in Germany. The book we are reading is an introduction which has taken on a life of its own: a self-berating monologue about Kohler's guilt - his dysfunctional family, his cheerless sex life, and his murky role in Nazi Germany. Kohler, we learn, both served and betrayed the Third Reich, creating a permanent rupture in his consciousness. This leads to the usual Banality of Evil questions: Was the Holocaust an aberration of mankind or perfectly in keeping with it? Is evil our natural state? Is there, to boil things down, any hope? Kohler thinks not. He imagines himself as the head of his own political alliance: the Party of the Disappointed People.
When Kohler isn't burrowing into his sour jeremiad on being and nothingness, he's giving it a literal metaphor: digging an actual tunnel out of his basement. His tunnel, like his book, doesn't lead anywhere; it's a pointless chore, an existential act, and an artistic statement.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you can manage to make it through this 650 page ode to ego,triviality,not-so-deep insights and out-of-this-world pomposity,then you must have a strong stomach and one dirty... Read morePublished on April 1 2002 by timothy hilliard
I saw the K tunnel once. I was at a rave in an old, decrepit laser tag arena. Everyone was strung out and the music was pretty bad, but all in all I didn't have a bad time. Read morePublished on Dec 11 2001 by Amazon Customer
Ridiculous, pretentious, pompous, self-important, self-indulgent, altogether vile waste of paper, ink, time, and effort. Don't bother.Published on Sept. 18 2001
This novel is utterly compelling, and once you accept the unstoppable nature of Gass's prose, you will be hooked on his unhinged and distressed language. Read morePublished on March 26 2001 by gladfly
One of the most daring, original works of literature I've read, if not THE most. The Tunnel's prose is massively rich, challenging and rewarding on numerous levels, making... Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2001
Never have I read something so ostentatious and empty as this novel borne from the bowels of Gass' not-so-ponderous mind. All style, no substance. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2001 by Ponderous one