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William Gass writes about literary language, about history, about the avant-garde, about minimalism's brief vogue, about the use of the present tense in fiction (Is it due to the lack of both a sense of history and a belief in the future?), about biography as a form, about exile - spiritual and geographical - and he examines the relationship of the writer's life to the writer's work. With dazzling intelligence and wit, Gass sifts through cultural issues of our time and contemplates how written language, whether a sentence or an entire book, is a container of consciousness, the gateway to another's mind that we enter for a while and make our own.