Middle C by William H Gass

72%

5 Critic Reviews

An academic satire is a peculiar choice for a swan song, but a thoroughly entertaining one that will be remembered long after the music stops playing.
-LA Times

Synopsis

A literary event—the long-awaited novel, almost two decades in work, by the acclaimed author of The Tunnel (“The most beautiful, most complex, most disturbing novel to be published in my lifetime.”—Michael Silverblatt, Los Angeles Times; “An extraordinary achievement”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post); Omensetter’s Luck (“The most important work of fiction by an American in this literary generation”—Richard Gilman, The New Republic); Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife; and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (“These stories scrape the nerve and pierce the heart. They also replenish the language.”—Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times).

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.
 

About William H Gass

See more books from this Author
William H. Gass-essayist, novelist, literary critic-was born in Fargo, North Dakota. He is the author of two novels, The Tunnel and Omensetter's Luck, and eight books of essays, including A Temple of Texts, Tests of Time, and Finding a Form. Gass is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, the architect Mary Henderson Gass.
 
Published March 12, 2013 by Vintage. 417 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Middle C
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Cynthia Ozick on Mar 28 2013

Gass’s sentences are, happily, not so succinct, and they are most exhilaratingly ingenious when they venture into unexpected and dizzying keys, diving from vernacular directness into an atonal Niagaran deluge...

Read Full Review of Middle C | See more reviews from NY Times

NPR

Below average
Reviewed by John Freeman on Mar 13 2013

Unfortunately, the sense of suffocation is all too real, and many readers will feel, on closing the book, a relief at being free of it.

Read Full Review of Middle C | See more reviews from NPR

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by David Cooper on Mar 11 2013

...Middle C‘s prose and the plot are quite accessible, making it a good introduction to its author’s other fiction.

Read Full Review of Middle C | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

LA Times

Good
Reviewed by Jim Ruland on Mar 22 2013

An academic satire is a peculiar choice for a swan song, but a thoroughly entertaining one that will be remembered long after the music stops playing.

Read Full Review of Middle C | See more reviews from LA Times

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Dimitri Nasrallah on Apr 12 2013

His novels still loom large in the imagination, expanding our sense of what literature is capable of achieving.

Read Full Review of Middle C | See more reviews from Toronto Star

Reader Rating for Middle C
60%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 31 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×