FOR THE LOVE OF IT by Wayne Booth


Amateuring and Its Rivals
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Veteran literary critic Booth (Univ. of Chicago; The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction, 1988) offers a heartfelt, though somewhat scattered, assertion of the value of avocation. With detailed (sometimes overly detailed) examinations of the many ways that his devotion to chamber music has affected his life and worldview, Booth, who started his lifelong study of the cello in 1952 at the age of 31 (after earlier dalliances with clarinet, piano, and voice), makes a convincing argument for the spiritual, physical, and social benefits of “amateuring.” The book, an amalgam of ruminations, journal entries, and polemics on and around the topic of why “the amateur chooses, day by day, hour by hour, to pursue what life does not require,” is in many ways a paean to the composers (most particularly Beethoven) whose music the author adores and to the teachers and fellow amateurs (most particularly his wife, a talented violinist) who have shared with him the pain and joy of this devotion. Booth sometimes veers into a fussy, dogmatic tone—on familiar subjects like the evils of passive hobbies or the failure of the school systems to provide a decent musical education—which may make readers impatient for the return of his more starry-eyed, crazy-for-the-cello narrative. For the Love of It would benefit from an accompanying soundtrack; it illustrates a bit too perfectly the dichotomy between rhetoric and music, since often the long passages that attempt to describe the rapture of a specific opus fall short of success. Yet Booth’s struggle—both musical and authorial—is so admirable, and his joy in learning so tangible, that many readers will be tempted, as he hopes, “to stop reading and get working on [their] own amateur pursuit.” An inspiring exhortation to those who have yet to find passion in pastime. (7 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-226-06585-5
Page count: 217pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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