JUST KIDS by Patti Smith

There are a handful of writers who haunt me. That is, as I’m reading their books they come to me in my dreams, usually with sharp elbows and voices clamoring for attention. Cormac McCarthy effects me this way. So does, not surprisingly perhaps, Friedrich Nietzsche. No writers whisper to me in my dreams. It was the second night of reading Just Kids that I discovered here too a voice so strong and compelling so as to ring in my ears after the book is closed, the eyes shut and the brain turned off. Like caffeine, if consumed after a certain late hour, you know you’re in for a ride. Patti Smith is an original. She is a poet with the heart of a rock star and the drive of an Olympic athlete. She comes at you hard and fast and won’t let go, even in a dream state. She is that mesmerizingly good.

January 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, National Book Award Winner, New York City, Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author

A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR by Mark Helprin

Alessandro Giuliani is listening to field guns being tested in Munich in 1914, the year before Italy entered the War against Germany and Austria. Although mostly interested in the visual arts, Alessandro should know about music and beauty of all kinds; as a Professor of Aesthetics, it is his metier. But he learns about it the hard way. When the war breaks out, he is just about to take his doctorate at the University of Bologna. He volunteers for the Italian navy in the hope of avoiding conscription into the trenches, but he ends up in some of the worst fighting of the war nonetheless, facing the Austrians across the river Isonzo.

November 6, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Literary, World Lit

A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan

In Jennifer’s Egan’s lively and inventive novel – A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD – each of its characters feels his or her mortality. Each is a in a tenuous danse-a-deux with “the goon.”

Every chapter is told from a different character’s point of view and it is no accident that the novel starts with Sasha – the assistant of music producer Bennie Salazar, one of the key focal points. Sasha has sticky fingers and is constantly pirating away meaningless objects to compose “the warped core of her life.” These objects serve as talismans, placing her at arm’s length from the love she wants.

November 3, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Humorous, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Pulitzer Prize, Reading Guide, Satire, y Award Winning Author

MOZART’S BLOOD by Louise Marley

In spite of the bodice-ripper cover, MOZART’S BLOOD is not a romance. Unless of course by romance you mean a romantic age or setting. It is a vampire tale set in the world of opera and spans centuries. The details of the struggles, competition and fleeting rewards of being an opera singer create a very romantic backdrop indeed.

October 31, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

THE ALTERNATIVE HERO by Tim Thornton

Tim Thornton, the author of THE ALTERNATIVE HERO and DEATH OF AN UNSIGNED BAND springs from the Nick Hornby realm of fiction. Hornby, one of the most interesting British writers of his generation excels with the creation of the fictional disconnected male obsessive and his two great loves: music and sports. Now here’s Tim Thornton, and his wonderful, engaging and very funny book, The Alternative Hero. First the disclaimer: if you don’t like music, then go away you boring person. But if you’re like me and connect various episodes of your misspent youth with the music of the day (whatever era that may be), then there’s an excellent chance that you may enjoy this book–the tale of a thirty-something who never really got over the carefree days of concerts, music memorabilia, and the unrestrained hero worship of a rock musician.

September 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Drift-of-Life, Humorous, United Kingdom

AN UNFINISHED SCORE by Elise Blackwell

Classical music, and the games of evasion and deception we play with the ones we love, create the engine that drives this lyrical, well-crafted story by acclaimed author Elise Blackwell. The premise is simple but compelling: Career violist Suzanne hears over the radio about the death of her lover, orchestral conductor Alex Elling, in a plane crash. She can only grieve secretly amid the members of her household, which include emotionally-distant husband Ben, irreverent best friend and fellow musician Petra and her young, deaf daughter. Suzanne soldiers on, rehearsing with her string quartet, playing second mother to Petra’s daughter, until a phone call from her former lover’s widow changes her life a second time. Suzanne and Alex’s secret affair was no secret, in the end, and now his widow extorts a favor from Suzanne: to finish the viola concerto started by her deceased husband. Desperate to keep the affair secret, even now, Suzanne reluctantly agrees.

September 23, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary