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A ROMANCE ON THREE LEGS

GLENN GOULD’S OBSESSIVE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT PIANO

Written with authority and enthusiasm, a treat for armchair musicologists, Gould fanatics and even those who never heard a...

A pianist’s love affair with his instrument, and the blind man who enabled it.

Glenn Gould (1932–82) was one of the most respected artists of classical music’s modern era. Piano tuner Charles Verne Edquist, on the other hand, is known only to a handful of music buffs. Both men were still boys in 1942, when the designers and manufacturers at Steinway & Sons began work on CD 318, a concert grand that Gould would one day conclude was the perfect instrument—and that Edquist would spend two decades tuning and revivifying from the pianist’s hard use. It wasn’t until 1960, four years after Gould became a classical bestseller with his recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, that he sat down to play CD 318 in a concert hall on the top floor of Toronto’s premier department store. It would be two more years before Gould connected with Edquist, who spent much of the next two decades adjusting CD 318 to meet the pianist’s demands for “hair-trigger action and lightning-fast repetition.” Plucky New York Times correspondent Hafner (Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet, 1996, etc.) weaves together three stories—of the pianist, the tuner and the piano itself—into a single cohesive narrative, the musical version of Seabiscuit (2001), as it were. She’s not distracted by Gould’s legendary quirks (the germ phobia, the grunting and whistling while performing) or his formidable loquacity. Drawing on hours of recorded interviews, she filters out the redundant and inconsequential to lucidly grasp the essential: the complex interaction among an artist, a craftsman and the precious tool they both revered.

Written with authority and enthusiasm, a treat for armchair musicologists, Gould fanatics and even those who never heard a note he played.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59691-524-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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