Saturday, August 8, 2009

From the Symposium on Contemporary Fiction, 1975

William Gass: [W]e're going to develop a whole group of people whose understanding of the world is so mathematical and our sciences so complex that it won't be possible for the ordinary person to follow them at all. It seems to me this condition has already been achieved, and in that sense the most advanced contemporary science is already past language. It isn't spoken in words any more, and I do not see any halting that process.

Audience: If language consistently betrays truth, which is what I understand, in one sense, you seem to be saying, why not abandon truth as an ideal?

Gass: Well, I think we ought to abandon truth as an ideal as artists. I think it's pernicious. I think it gets in the way all the time. That sounds sort of odd to some people but actually you'd say that to a mathematician. Mathematicians aren't interested in truth, they're interested in formal coherence. That's how they develop their systems. That's the way poets work, I think.