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BACH

MUSIC IN THE CASTLE OF HEAVEN

An erudite work resting on prodigious research and experience and deep affection and admiration.

A celebrated conductor of baroque music debuts with an examination of Bach’s compositions, descriptions of various works and some inferences about the genius who created them.

Although Gardiner celebrates Bach’s accomplishments through this dense, demanding but rewarding work, he reminds readers continually that the composer was no saint—“a thoroughly imperfect being,” he calls him near the end. But the author’s focus is not so much on the man but on the music. Gardiner does explain the various geographical moves Bach made in his career, his duties in the various venues where he worked, the amazing demands from his employers—and from his own work ethic; the author writes about Bach’s coevals, his marriages, and his children and extended family. But all is in service to the principal item on his agenda: the music. Gardiner is an unabashed Bach fan, praising the composer throughout, even comparing his music to the voice of God. However, he recognizes human weaknesses, as well—for example, his contentious relationship with authority. Gardiner takes us through the major types of works—the cantatas (including some interesting passages about the Coffee Cantata), the St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, the motets and the Mass in B Minor. Some of his detailed analysis will leave behind his general readers but will surely animate musicians and musicologists. Although he occasionally alludes to extramusical worlds (mentioning Uncle Remus stories, Philip Pullman, Shakespeare, cake-baking and a variety of famous painters), Gardiner’s textual world is principally a musical one. He also examines Bach’s Lutheranism and how he revealed his religious ideas in the music—and in the interactions between the music and the words. He speculates that near the end of Bach’s life, the composer seemed to express some doubts about life beyond the grave.

An erudite work resting on prodigious research and experience and deep affection and admiration.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-41529-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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