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GHOST QUARTET by Richard Burgin

GHOST QUARTET

By Richard Burgin

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8101-5095-6

Burgin, author of three well-received story collections (Fear of Blue Skies, 1997, etc.), hits several sour notes in a tedious novel that exhaustively analyzes the emotions of a young classical composer who trades sex for career advancement. Ray Stoneson’s passive homosexual relationship with his idol and eventual mentor, celebrated —triple-threat man in music——i.e., composer-conductor-solo pianist—Perry Green (30 years his senior, and a dead fictional ringer for Leonard Bernstein) has developed, as Ray realizes, because of his own “fear of being an ordinary person.— Indeed, thanks to Perry’s considerable influence, the younger man’s work quickly receives highly visible public performance and possibly lucrative recording contracts. But the combination of Ray’s troubled conscience, the loss of his girlfriend Joy (ostensibly a gifted singer, but a completely unconvincing character), and the objections of Perry’s other current lover, an unstable young actor named Bobby, signal the end of the guilty affair, leaving Ray to his own devices and his own company. This is glum stuff: soap opera without that genre’s trashy energy, redeemed only in part by Burgin’s obviously thorough knowledge of the worlds of classical music and performance (the story is set mainly in New York City and the environs of Tanglewood in Massachusetts’s Berkshires). And the mood isn—t exactly lightened by numerous lengthy conversations in which characters essentially provide exposition by describing one another in fulsomely flattering terms, or worry ad nauseam about contracting AIDS, either before or instead of having sex. Misconceived from start to finish: an embarrassment. Read Burgin’s short stories instead.