AN ABSOLUTE GIFT: A New Diary by Ned Rorem


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Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ned Rorem called his last book The Final Diary. Promises, promises. Here he is with a ""new"" diary, but, of course, it's nothing of the kind. Because, like anyone whose mind hasn't changed for two or three decades, all Rorem can do is circle round and round his hothouse of opinions, straining for aphorisms, gazing into his rococo mirror. As he says himself, ""I've uttered all that's in me in as many accents as can be forfeited."" Among the forfeited accents here are those of an ephemeral film reviewer (Blazing Saddles, Towering Inferno), book reviewer (Tennessee Williams' short stories), review reviewer (pouting at critics from the Times to Kirkus), and existentialist: ""The hero of my diary is a fictional man upon whom I've worked hard but who has little to do with me--including the me penning this sentence, who is also the hero of my diary."" He is, of course, far less woozily pretentious when writing about music than writing about himself, his homosexuality, his lover (the moody ""JH""), or feminism. But his vigorous appreciations of moderns like Poulenc, Ravel, Britten, and Bernstein (""There exists no more beguiling melodist"") are undercut by the philistine-twitting nonsense that has gone before. You don't exactly put faith in the middle-aged bad boy who writes that ""Jews can't play French music"" or ""Sutherland is a dumb singer of dumb music"" or ""What a waste of time,' I sigh, as the players put down their bows after a performance of Mendelssohn's Quintet."" What a waste of time--and sigh indeed.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster