A post at Flavorwire, prompted by D.T. Max’s new DFW bio, looks at a few authors and works the late writer was influenced by. Among them, Gass’ Omensetter’s Luck:
From Max: “Christmas 1985, they [Wallace and Gale Walden] each had car trouble, so they agreed that it would be romantic to join up and drive in a convoy back to Tucson, Wallace from Urbana, Walden from the South Side of Chicago… On the trip, Wallace listened to the southwestern accents. He had long wanted to write a variation on William Gass’s novel Omensetter’s Luck. The laconic hillbilly voice of the story appealed to him. As a ‘weird kind of forger,’ imitating it would be a fun challenge. ‘He started to talk out “John Billy” at rest stops,’ Walden remembers. ‘He was trying to get the cadence of the dialogue.’”
Wallace would end up including the short story “John Billy,” with its Gass-inspired dialect and complicated secondhand tall-tale, in the collection Girl with Curious Hair.
A few years later, in either 1997 or 1998, Wallace came to read at the International Writers Center that Gass ran at Washington University in St. Louis during that decade.