In “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country,” Gass not only makes short lists of names and objects, but he also creates the very structure of the tale from his ingrained habit of list-making. The story, in brief, becomes a list of lists. There is no regular story line or even normal paragraphing but rather a series of journal-like entries, each one with its appropriate subtitle such as “People,” “Weather,” or “Place.” There is only one voice, that of the unidentified poet-narrator, who is living in the dismally boring town of B. . . , Indiana (identified in the preface to the whole volume, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, as Brookston, Indiana).
As in Omensetter’s Luck, the texture of the world is composed of words and, particularly, of words turned into poem-like lists. There is again the preoccupation with names, including Mr. Tick, the narrator’s cat, and such hilarious names as “Gladiolus, Callow Bladder, Prince and Princess Oleo, Hieronymous, Cardinal Mummum, Mr. Fitchew, Spot.” The narrator also lists all the possessions of an old man in Brookston, a kind of pack rat who has saved everything, even the steering tiller from the first, old-fashioned car he owned.
The narrator is a saver of things, too, a poet without a lover or a job who painfully plods through each day, examining the minutest details of his environment (clouds, trees, buildings) until they become a kind of poetry. This...
(The entire section is 418 words.)