LETTERS I NEVER MAILED: Clues to a Life by Alec Wilder


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When, as in his Alec Wilder and Friends (1974), pop and classical composer Wilder spots an honest, civilized and responsible performance -- whether by a musician or a Pullman car porter -- his delight at finding such grandeur amongst the ""goblins"" inspires tributes as explicit, acute and balanced as a Mabel Mercer song. But in this life-memoir constructed out of ""unmailed letters"" both to those who glowed and to the slobs who burned him, there are also tempered blasts at childhood irritants: (""Dear Reverend Goodwill:/ . . . why were you sitting on my mother's bed. . . eating lamb chops and peas. . . "") or from his later years (to a music critic: ""Are you by chance or preference a Neophiliac?""). There are many self-evaluative statements to confidants and careful explanations of: the inner Wilder (he is a victim of ""pantophobia"" -- fear of everything); possessions (he carries everything he owns in three suitcases -- anything from wives to plants might have ""sharp, unpredictable claws""); music -- his life-of-learning in composition; and what could only be called a derived ethic: "". . . the cooperation and interdependence essential to superior ensemble playing. . . is a. . . lesson in responsible social behavior without which civilized living would be impossible."" Except for that last pronouncement, which Wilder himself ticks off as ""sententious,"" these are subcutaneously persistent, pinprick insights into one life on a very small planet.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1975
ISBN: 1580462081
Publisher: Little, Brown