In The Heart Of The Heart Of The Country by William Gass, 1968
The magic trick:
Splitting the story into a series of small sections with simple subheads
Gass introduces the reader to his hometown with a series of segmented descriptions separated by brief subheads. The device is so drastic it almost feels like a gimmick. But there’s no arguing its success.
The result, at least early in the story, is a seemingly scientific categorization of the town and its people. We get sections such as “Education,” “Weather,” and “Vital Data.” It’s an interesting and easy entry into the narrator’s world. And that’s nice and all, but the technique truly shines as the story progresses and Gass begins to add a heavy dose of sadness and anger in the little sub-sections. No longer does the reader get dry population figures; we’re getting raw emotion. It’s that transition that really provides the window into the narrator’s character, self-loathing, and fury. And that’s quite a trick on Gass’s part.
My window is a grave, and all that lies within it’s dead. No snow is falling. There’s no haze. It is not still, not silent. Its images are not an animal that waits, for movement is no demonstration. I have seen the sea slack, life bubble through a body without a trace, its spheres impervious as soda’s. Downwound, the whore at wagtag clicks and clacks. Leaves wiggle. Grass sways. A bird chirps, pecks the ground.