An issue on middleness, which starts out—of course—with an essay on USA Today and the theory behind that colorful newspaper. Then: Ben Metcalf seethes at the Mississippi River. Tom Vanderbilt explores a California ghost town that has become a federally subsidized film set. Dan Kelly lunches with Rotarians. Kim Phillips-Fein explores the bankruptcy industry and the morality of indebtedness a full ten years before these issues dawned on the rest of the nation. Marc Cooper remembers where he was on September 11, 1973. Also: an entertaining epistolary exchange between Chris Lehmann and Michael Bérubé. Summer 1998.