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This report is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

Letter from Austin
John Clegg
In Luke Bilberry’s bookshop, on 12th Street in Austin, Texas, there’s a small shrine to Christopher Middleton, on a low shelf, so you have to kneel to see it. There’s the programme from Middleton’s Austin memorial service, with a photo I’d never seen before, looking like a publicity still for an Outlaw Country tour – his beard slick, shirt unbuttoned two buttons further than mine (and mine was already open one more button than I’d wear in London, a concession to the ludicrous November heat), gazing moodily at a point just to the left of the photographer. Propped alongside are the last few books Luke bought from Middleton’s library in 2014: Hans Arp first editions, a two-volume catalogue of a Surrealist exhibition, a history of German expressionist poetry with its spine badly broken. Luke is a lovely man, with the bookseller’s skill of giving the customer enough silence to browse and enough conversation to feel unselfconscious. While I’m looking through his poetry section, he steps into the back room and phones various friends of Middleton to organise meetings for me.

The sun hasn’t set, but the thought is definitely beginning to cross its mind. I wander down 12th Street to Jeffrey’s, where Middleton spent a few evenings every week after his retirement. Everyone I talk to about Jeffrey’s describes a golden age when it was a friendly neighbourhood bar, and bemoans its 2013 refurb, but I like it immensely. The one bartender who would have remembered Middleton retired in September – I’m taken to see the bartender’s massive portrait hanging in the dining room, and ...

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