May 152013

I read that there have already been several reviews of the book  Middle C by William Gass (2013, 416 pp), including the ones by Cynthia Ozick in the New York Times, and Michael Gorra in the New York Review of Books. But I confess, I’ve only read the one by Seth Colter Walls in the latest LRB (9 May 2013). At the end of this review it is recorded that during an interrogation in 1978 Gass was accused by the writer John Gardner that his novels were like jumbo jets, “too encrusted with gold to get off the ground.” Gass replied, “There is always that danger. But what I really want is to have it sit there solid as a rock and have everybody think it is flying.”

18 years to make a rock? I am doubtful of the necromancing topography here, and my feeling is that I wont be tempted to “go in” and invest the effort and anxieties (“I write because I hate” WG) to journey through the shady sorcery of Middle C. I am in any case already engrossed in Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas (2005, tr 2011), and will be for some time, travelling on the iron rails which crisscross the enormous territory of  twentieth century Hungary (the book is a thumping 1133 pp). The back cover says it took Nadas 15 years to write, and then the translator 4 more years. It will likely be his last work – like Gass – as both writers are now old men.