Middle C: Book summary and reviews of Middle C by William H Gass

Middle C

By William H Gass

Middle C
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2013,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

A literary event - the long-awaited novel, almost two decades in work, by one of the most revered American writers of our time, author of the universally acclaimed The Tunnel

Gass's new novel moves from World War II Europe to a small town in postwar Ohio. In a series of variations, Gass gives us a mosaic of a life - futile, comic, anarchic - arranged in an array of vocabularies, altered rhythms, forms and tones, and broken pieces with music as both theme and structure, set in the key of middle C.

It begins in Graz, Austria, 1938. Joseph Skizzen's father, pretending to be Jewish, leaves his country for England with his wife and two children to avoid any connection with the Nazis, who he foresees will soon take over his homeland. In London with his family for the duration of the war, he disappears under mysterious circumstances. The family is relocated to a small town in Ohio, where Joseph Skizzen grows up, becomes a decent amateur piano player, in part to cope with the abandonment of his father, and creates as well a fantasy self - a professor with a fantasy goal: to establish the Inhumanity Museum ... as Skizzen alternately feels wrongly accused (of what?) and is transported by his music. Skizzen is able to accept guilt for crimes against humanity and is protected by a secret self that remains sinless.

Middle C
tells the story of this journey, an investigation into the nature of human identity and the ways in which each of us is several selves, and whether any one self is more genuine than another.

William Gass set out to write a novel that breaks traditional rules and denies itself easy solutions, cliff-edge suspense, and conventional surprises ... Middle C is that book; a masterpiece by a beloved master.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Epic ... crazily rich with thought ... remarkably detailed .... Gass beautifully coaxes the unheard music from a seemingly muted life ... the model of a living, introverted mind and fodder for a symphonic anti-adventure story ... the unprecedented work of a master." - Publishers Weekly

"Engaging, melancholy ... Gass remains a master of apt metaphors, graceful sentences and a flinty, unforgiving brand of humor; it may be the most entertaining novel you'll read that half wishes humanity was wiped off the map. ... Gass, now 88, clearly has endings on his mind, which he addresses with fearsome brio and wit." - Kirkus

"...internationally lauded virtuoso Gass reflects on humanity's crimes and marvels, creating his funniest and most life-embracing book yet." - Booklist

"Starred Review. A masterly work of language and imagery from one of America's most celebrated authors. To those unfamiliar with Gass's work, the dense and fragmented narrative is a challenge, but one worth undertaking." - Library Journal

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More Information

William H. Gass—essayist, novelist, literary critic—was born in Fargo, North Dakota. He is the author of six works of fiction and nine books of essays, including Life Sentences, A Temple of Texts, and Tests of Time. Gass is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. He lives with his wife, the architect Mary Gass, in St. Louis.

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