A critical appreciation of Middle C, by William H. Gass, this review essay focuses on the self-reflective ironies of what is likely to be the celebrated author’s last novel, capping a long metafictional career. A story about an immigrant family of fakes, whose scion cons his way into a professorship of music at a small midwestern college and, despite his fears, poor personal relationships, and morbid obsession with lurid exhibits (reports and pictures) for his attic “Inhumanity Museum,” ends up escaping discovery, the loss of his job, and public censure. In the biggest irony of all, perhaps, considering Gass’s previous novel, The Tunnel, a masterpiece of misanthropy, the protagonist recounts his past and its effects on his present, providing along the way considerable, albeit satiric, laughter for the reader and for our hero himself. This relationship of apparent revocation of all of Gass’s past work, especially the best of it, is sounded. We are thus left with the question: Is this new novel the biggest fake of all? In this way, reading such a novel puts its would-be critic in the position of either spoiling the joke or playing along with it. Is this revolting development not fundamentally what we take literature to be creating?

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