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Comment: exlibrary hardcover book in mylar jacket with light wear, shows some light reader wear throughout ,all the usual library marks and stamps.
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Middle C Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307701638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307701633
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This picaresque tale of a hapless poseur, music professor Joseph Skizzen, is a mischievous variation on the moral dilemmas raised in Gass’ The Tunnel (1995), in which a historian grapples with his life’s work, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany. Skittish Joseph’s secret obsession with genocidal horrors is manifest in his “Inhumanity Museum,” a motley collection of documents about human atrocities that fills the attic in his decaying Victorian house in a small Ohio college town. Fearfully virginal Joseph lives with his Austrian refugee mother, a ferocious gardener. They fled WWII Europe when he was a boy after his father, a master of false identities, disappeared. Looking back on his anxiously improvised American life, Joseph recalls incidents ludicrous, painful, and hilarious involving characters of delectably cartoonish particulars connected to his misbegotten jobs at a record store and a library. Joseph also remembers his lonely old piano teacher, who extolled middle C and the major third as a chord on which “all that is good and warm and wholesome and joyful in nature is built.” Can a human life achieve such uplifting unity and resonance? In this exuberantly learned bildungsroman—this torrent of curious facts and arch commentary, puns and allusions—internationally lauded virtuoso Gass reflects on humanity’s crimes and marvels, creating his funniest and most life-embracing book yet. --Donna Seaman

From Bookforum

The formidability of language and the drive for narrative complexity, which have long put Gass squarely in the neither-nor camp where high-modernist experimentation overlaps with postmodern gamesmanship, are both on ample display, as is the demanding erudition that the author injects in all his work. In tone, in its black humor and formal self-consciousness, Middle C is, well, classic Gass, and as such the novel's arrival is a signal event. When Middle C works most effectively as a novel, the reading experience is exhilarating. The effect is like listening to an uncared-for LP—here the needle gets stuck in the scratches, repeating a snippet over and over, there it suddenly glides forward over the dusty surface. I wish I could summon an image that doesn't immediately come off as negative (or Make Middle C sound like a broken record), for Gass's strategies in constructing his novel are at times brilliant as they are taxing. Elaboration without triumph, finality without completion: In the end, we're back at the beginning. It's not a novel departure, but in Gass's Trojan horse of a book, it is an always adventuresome trip. —Eric Banks

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Customer Reviews

He hasn't learned anything.
Amazon Customer
Gass writes a little like this himself, interspersing chapters from different time-periods, many of which appear like musical variations on recurrent themes.
Roger Brunyate
An interesting concept, but terribly repetitious.
Lewis D. Eckard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At the start of the book, Rudi Skizzen decides to move his from Austria to England to escape the Nazis. He feels that any contact with them would degrade his family, so he fakes being Jewish and is transported as a refugee. He doesn't fool the Jewish community, but he confuses his son Joseph and enrages his wife and makes no real impression on his daughter Deborah. After Rudi disappears, the family ends up in Ohio.

Joseph shares the same gloomy outlook on humanity as his father. He fears humanity will not disappear. He experiences people as a blight. But he regards himself as a fake, a questionable teacher of music and a quixotic music critic. Here he lives in Ohio, in the middle of the country, with a population that are all unequal. He is haunted by crimes against humanity, founding an Inhumanity Museum. Joseph lives in his mother's garden, amongst the rules of nature, and even here he can feel the fraud.

The book revolves around riffs of philosophy, musicology, perhaps the quest for the middle. The language is playful, then devastating, then prosaic. This book has been reviewed as difficult to read, post modern, and uneven. These reviews scared me off for a while, but I was intrigued with the Austrian pretending to be a Jew. I found the writing accessible, mesmerizing, and fantastic in the true meaning of the word. I like Joseph and his quest for the middle that even in music, never sounds alone. I urge you to make the jump, disregarding the warnings. Not much is new in the literary sun, but this book has much that is novel, in the true meaning of the word.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Leslie N. Patino on March 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Erudite, accomplished and a successful writer capable of penning this complex novel full of beautiful writing, 88-year-old William Gass is a man to admire. In an age when traditional publishing houses and Hollywood are often interested only in reliable blockbusters, this "Middle C," is a note rarely heard. It makes for unusual reading in that it breaks so many of the bestseller rules. The novel is long, the story winding and the tangents numerous. At times, it's hard to know where Gass or protagonist Yussel-Joey-Joseph-Professor Skizzen and the unconventional punctuation are headed with their riffs. The third chapter is ten pages of Skizzen's obsession with writing a single sentence correctly--an obsession that goes on until the next-to-last page of the novel.

The writing is often dense which, for me, definitely detracted from the pleasure of reading, but Gass is so knowledgeable and intellectual that he kept me going. His humor ("At first Joey appreciated her apparently genuine vulgarity in such a crowd of stodges."), his odd characters (the unforgettable Miss Spiky who Skizzen and I couldn't help but like) and an unusual story with plenty of deep thoughts to ponder carried me through to the end. I don't expect to see "Middle C" at the top of "The New York Times" Best Sellers list, but a big bravo to Gass and Knopf for publishing it.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Patrican on April 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Middle C is primarily a display of Gass's love of thinking and writing. Put more crudely, it's a dump of his accumulated musings. So, even more than with most books, any evaluation of Middle C is dependent on the tastes of the reader. If you like intellectual mind-games, interweaving word-play, this book is for you. It's compiled around a man whose aim in life is "to pass through life still reasonably clean of complicity in human affairs, affairs that are always and inevitably ... envious, mean, murderous, jealous, greedy, treacherous, miserly, self-serving, vengeful, pitiless, stupid, and otherwise pointless." He's to remain at "Middle C," although the metaphor doesn't seem to me to be a good one. A life journey unnoticed at the center of the pack doesn't lend itself to dramatic excitement as easily as, say, Ulysses' journey home does, but Gass makes of it what he can.

In some of the early chapters (3, 6), Gass relates, with considerable relish, a great many details of horrific murders of people by other people. Not since William Burroughs (Naked Lunch, but especially Thanksgiving Day Prayer) have I seen inhumanity related with such deadpan glee. I don't pick up any sense of outrage, or even disgust, from Gass. He seems almost bored with it. This is the way it is, the way it always has been. The bewildering thing is that somehow people in general continue on, civilization walking around in an incredible, indelible, fantasy of its goodness and mercy. But if Gass thinks he's the first with that news, he's sadly mistaken.

At one point our hero, in his quest to avoid human affairs, mentions: "I am lonely." But it's very late in the book, and that thought is not explored or developed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sharon - NYC on April 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
William Gass has presented us with a master class on the modern novel. Along the way, he discusses the major philosophical dilemmas facing mankind, the questions for all time. Set against the backdrop of Nazi Europe and modern day America is an intricate discussion of identity and of man's inhumanity to man. The protagonist Yussel, Joseph, Joey riffs on what is real and what is not, what is good music and what is not and who decides and based on what criteria. If a man is undocumented, does he exist? Which is better: a credentialed fraud or an uncertified original. What constitutes a life authentically lived and is anyone authentic? Which is worse: the fear that mankind will end or that it will survive? And all of these lofty questions posed in a brilliantly humorous prose that keeps you smiling through your tears. I wouldn't give this a middle C, I would give it an unequivocal A for its love of music, its love of language, lofty and profane and its serious philosophical questions posed by a most unlikely anti-hero.
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