We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 2, covering pages 127 through 247. Get the schedule here. Purchase the book here and benefit this site. All posts related to this group read are here.
—So far Mad Meg has been ghosting through this book. He pops up intermittently, and then his harangues only last a short while. What exactly is the point of this guy? What’s his philosophy? Why is he important to Kohler?
—What do you think of Oscar Planmantee’s assertion that in order to “secure for history an honest footing” we need to reach “the ultimate element,” that little nugget of fact that will permit no further division?  And how does this relate to Koher’s musings on the following page that “I wonder whether it’s only pain that has parts, for my patches of happiness seem continuous, complete, so warmly substantial everywhere”? [129-30] Also note his further assertion, “And what is the ultimate element in history but human life—human coupling, human pain?” 
—It seems that throughout this section, particularly in the “QUARREL” segments, Kohler is trying to make the study of war applicable to the study of human emotions. For instance, “My father suffered thirty years of pain. A continent could call it a war. It was an unjust fate.”  Do you buy this conflation? How does this make you feel about Kohler as a chronicler of his own life?
—What do you make of the limerick at the bottom of page 141 that begins, “I once wet my bed just for fun”? Is this perhaps an indication of some formative event that has encouraged Kohler to obsess over his genitals?
—Note the first sentence of Guilt and Innocence: “‘Time cannot do to ordinary things what we timelessly do to one another,’ I announce, although in a careful whisper, repeating the first sentence of my masterpiece . .. ” 
—”Martha hates when I shape my sentences. She says it doesn’t sound sincere.”  Another clue to Kohler’s writing style. Do all these aesthetic flourishes help him find the truth, or dance around it?
—Did you regard the excerpt from the review of a book written by Kohler on pages 218-19 as authentic? If you do take it as authentic, it’s a rather important clue to how the outside world sees Kohler’s work, although I don’t see how a book to which Kohler has not yet written the introduction could have been reviewed. Or perhaps it is a review of a prior work.
—What did you make of the paragraph on pages 172-3 where Kohler reprises his breakup with Lou with the cadences and rhyme scheme reminiscent of a limerick?
—Do you believe Culp’s assertion that a limerick “IS AN IMPLEMENT OF REVOLUTION!”  Is he saying this seriously? Does it matter, when regarding Culp, if he is speaking with ostensible sincerity or not?
—What do you think of “Slobweb #9″: “These days to be innocent is the worst crime.” 
—What about all the quotes having to do with Time in this segment of text, perhaps best summed up with this quote: before giving a lecture, Mad Meg “waited in vain for the clock to come out of its hole and cast a significant shadow: to be held out to us to illustrate the cheesy commonplace character of Time, or to symbolize its cheap and easy manufacture, as if to say ‘Time is a clown’s prop'; but he didn’t make the least use of it; he didn’t refer to it in any way; nor did its alarm go off in the middle of his discourse as we half expected.” 
—Please add your own questions in the comments section.
More from Conversational Reading:
- The Tunnel Big Read: Some Questions for Week 1 We are group reading William H. Gass’s The Tunnel on this website from September 30 through November 3. We are currently in Week 1, covering...
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