INSTRUMENTAL by James Rhodes


A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music
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A noted classical pianist revisits the horrors of the abuse and rape he experienced as a little boy and rehearses the enduring effects on his life, loves, and music.

Rhodes debuts with a memoir that is, in many ways, a dark, underground cavern only intermittently permeated by shafts—and sometimes floods—of light. He divides his account into 20 “tracks,” each of which begins with rumination about a relevant classical piece for the piano, including some biographical details about the composer and information about the performance he recommends. Throughout the passionate narrative, the author examines a variety of topics, including the serial rape he experienced for five years in elementary school (painful even to read—though not overly graphic), the enduring psychological problems that ensued (he says he’s never more than “two bad weeks away from a locked ward”), the process of becoming a respected classical pianist (despite a 10-year hiatus in late adolescence/early adulthood), the events that led to the end of his first marriage (he offers numerous declarations of love for his son), his stays in mental institutions, and his fiery beliefs about the status and future of classical music. In a particularly bitter passage, Rhodes assails those whom he calls “gatekeepers,” stuffy performers, record labels, and critics whom he blames for what he sees as the moribund state of the genre. He proposes a number of solutions, and he practices what he preaches—on YouTube are a number of his performances that make his beliefs and practices particularly clear. The text is replete with dismissive profanities for those he believes have earned his disdain. There are times when Rhodes becomes a bit preachy and repetitive, but, given the haunted house in which he’s lived since boyhood, most readers will surely cut him some slack.

A powerful story of day-to-day survival, struggle, triumph, and hope.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63-286696-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2016


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