Recent magazine pieces, book reviews, record-jacket notes, and lectures by composer/diarist Rorem--with about 100 pages of...

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SETTING THE TONE: Essays and a Diary

Recent magazine pieces, book reviews, record-jacket notes, and lectures by composer/diarist Rorem--with about 100 pages of the collection cast in the musing, fragmented diary-form. (Portions of ""Nantucket Diary 1974"" also appear in An Absolute Gift, 1978.) Rorem pounces on friends and acquaintances, putting down such as Rex Reed and Truman Capote (""the poor man's thinker"") or smarting over a tactful rebuff (imagined?) from new acquaintance Elizabeth Hardwick: ""That she should consider me a lesser cut cast an unredeeming shadow across the afternoon."" He visits Paris, brings back autobiographical memories: ""Was once extremely pretty if you like the type, which I detest. With magnetic charm, which others name crass monopoly. I pontificated forever. . . ."" He comments on movies seen, books read, TV-shows watched, operas attended. (Montserrat Caballe is ""a two-ton Cuisinart exuding only egg-whites, and the adulation around this tedious invention only reconvinces me of the average Opera Buff's misdirection."") He has publisher problems, an outbreak of herpes. He muses on art (""I hate Pollack"" [sic]), music, the sufferings of his lover ""JH,"" and homosexuality (""unlike negritude or womanhood. . . a part-time job""). And though the book pieces--on Misia, Cosima Wagner's Diaries, States of Desire, The Noel Coward Diaries, an Auden biography, and others--tend to be neither solid reviews nor satisfying mini-essays, Rorem remains a valuable appreciator of his musical-repertory specialties: there's a sturdy survey of the American art-song (a record-jacket item), a fervent salute to ""favorite opera"" PellÉas et MÉlisande, useful words on Ravel/Poulenc/Satie, and--less predictably, from this loather of grand opera--a lively, erratic romp through Carmen. (""Formally the opera bites off more than it can chew, then chews it."") More engaging and varied than the two most recent diaries, with the assorted subject-matters minimizing Rorem's self-indulgent, petulant tendencies: a generous gathering (a dozen reprinted ""early pieces"" too) for Roremites--and, here and there, for a wider musical readership.

Pub Date: June 17, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Coward-McCann

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983