“A Note On the Spectacular” by William H. Gass

Image by John Hendrix / johnhendrix.com

What is spectacular to me? The concluding page of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. It announces the end of this great project and in a way that recognizes the exasperation it will cause, when it plays ring around the rosy. The Wake will have few readers, however often it is praised, and the circularity the text glories in is that of the gambling table. Only Gertrude Stein used repetitions with such confidence. But the Wake doesn’t end? Sure it does. The music is merely played again.



William H. Gass—essayist, novelist, literary critic—was born in Fargo, North Dakota. He is the author of six works of fiction and nine books of essays, including Life Sentences, A Temple of Texts, and Tests of Time. Gass is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. He lives with his wife, the architect Mary Gass, in St. Louis.