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Why I Am a Member of the Christopher Middleton Fan Club

This is my list of the essential books of Christopher Middleton, the ones I believe you should read if you want to learn what he has been up to for the past 60 years:

In Conversation

SUSAN JANE GILMAN with Susan Marque

It was a wonderful morning treat talking with Susan Jane Gilman about her most recent memoir Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven. She, a native New Yorker who is living in Geneva, Switzerland, and I, a recent transplant to New York from L.A., met on Skype to connect about travel, writing, and life.


There’s a long tradition of pillaging classic texts for their architecture, Martin Amis’s recent appropriation of the Decameron being one of the less distinguished. Kevin Bartelme does better with The Great Gatsby.

The Rule of Sprawl

In her essay “Photography: A Little Summa” Susan Sontag wrote, “To be modern is to live, entranced, by the savage autonomy of the detail.” She’s talking specifically about seeing, about how photographs, being themselves details, “seem like life.”

Daddy, Who's Grover Cleveland?

The phrase “Gilded Age” started as a satirical term co-coined by Mark Twain and co-opted from Shakespeare in 1873. It was an apt description of the post-Civil War United States.

Questionable Answer

Talk about suffering for the sake of art. The prescription for a fully realized performance on the stage offered by the Swiss author Robert Walser (1878–1956) involves you, the actor, emitting a “lion-like roar” and disgorging a “fiery-green snake” from your “pain-warped mouth,” then sticking a knife in one eye.

Freezing Cold Crazytown, Warms Reader

Melville House sure can make a pretty book. And like everything aware of its own beauty, this book knows its worth and doesn’t have to prove, anything to its reader. It plays a little hard to get at first, and only a gentle and patient reader will reap the rewards.

Follow the Bunny Trail

Second Acts is a novel about time travel, a hermaphrodite Native American guide named Bunny who invents therapy, the world’s most beautiful labia, and the 19th century version of Oprah. Somebody, please make this movie!

The Ass with Two Tales

John Farris’s The Ass’s Tale is a pun. Meaning there are always two tales. The one tale Farris is ostensibly playing with is The Metamorphoses of Apuleius, or The Golden Ass, in which the narrator Lucius accidentally turns himself into an ass.


Rolling like a column of cabooses packed with ghosts, Tom Clark approaches the terminus in this latest work. Awarded a Fulbright when he was 22, Clark was instrumental in exposing America’s avant poets when he became an editor at the Paris Review almost half a century ago.

Pulled Punch

For any frustrated writer, the premise of Adam Langer’s The Thieves of Manhattan is alluring, as the satirical story is a strong jab at the current state of the publishing industry.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2010

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