Saturday, February 8, 2014

From Out at the Edge of the Key- and Fingerboards


I'm just short of a third through Richard Power's new novel Orfeo. I ordered a Kindle copy after opening Dalkey's first package with the wrong volume of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling and started reading before Dalkey made good on fixing its mistake, air-freighting the right volume. I've read every novel Powers has written to varying degrees of like to love. I haven't - so far, and so far it keeps getting better - been this engaged in a Power's novel since 1998's Gain (and I very much liked 2003's Plowing the Dark* and thought - think - 2006's The Echo Maker the best novel about immediate post-911 America I've read (or tried to read)).**

Disclosure: the main character of Orfeo is a composer of 20th C Classical music, the novel is full of 20th C Classical music and music theory in general and it's catnip to me, I mean Berio and Ligeti and Shostakovich and.... Olivier Messiean. Power's writes  a long, sweet, brutal twelve page love song (the post's title comes from it) to Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, describing the conditions under which he wrote Q4ET (Messiaen was a French POW in WW2 in a prison camp in Silesia, wrote the piece there) but also the musical structure (or the revolutionary lack of structure***) of Q4ET. Anyway, I'm listening to it two or three times tonight, it's in my head it can be in yours, maybe some might season their night with it.


* I miss John Leonard's book reviews. 
** All three are to reviews in NYRB and may be subscription only. I can get them to you via other means if you have no access and want one or other.
*** One of the book's major themes is the immediate obsolescence of revolution in art.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Q4ET is one of my favorite 20th Century pieces as well. Must get Orfeo! I may have even blogged about it.