By William H. Gass
(Vintage Books, Paperback, 9780804168786, 395pp.)
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
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In a series of brilliant variations, William Gass presents a man’s life—futile, comic, anarchic—arranged in an array of vocabularies, altered rhythms, forms, and tones, with music as both theme and structure.
It begins in Graz, Austria, in 1938, when Joseph Skizzen’s father pretends to be Jewish and emigrates to avoid the Nazis. In London with his wife and children for the duration of the war, he mysteriously disappears and the rest of the family relocates to a small town in Ohio. Here Joseph Skizzen grows up and leads a resolutely ordinary life, but one that is built on a scaffold of forgery and deceit. Outwardly he is a professor of music at a mediocre college; secretly he is the earnestly obsessive curator of a private Inhumanity Museum, meant to contain the guilt of centuries of atrocities. Middle C tells the story of his journey—a story that is also an investigation into the nature of identity and the ways in which each of us is several selves.