This installment: the seamy side of classical music (nf); a cd full of adventure and fantasy (f); and a lost young man trying to become a boxer (f).
Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall
Subtitled Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music and it’s steamy indeed. Lots of #Me Too here as teachers inveigle students into hanky-panky and the road to getting gigs is paved with affairs. (When these crash, professional prospects are truncated and those are few and far between from the get-go.) Then there are all the tedious and demeaning jobs to pay the rent like “jingles” (advertising) and musical theater which gets old fast. Opportunities to express the passion that drew them into the field don’t happen often. Blair, an oboist, lived in the Annendale, a crumbling NYC apartment building crammed with musicians. She eventually got into journalism but still keeps her hand in the music biz. Lots of economic explication here: the lamentable state of arts funding and the delusions of institutions that can’t keep up with the times. Eye-opening.
The Boundless by Keith Oppel
I encountered this first in CD form and it made my commute a breathlessly adventuresome ride. We’re talking train travel here and the eponymous mode of transport is 9 miles long. Young Will’s father rose up in the ranks and is now chief engineer on this maiden journey in the Northwest. Magical realism, including many sasquatches who are pretty terrifying. There’s a circus on board—more magic—and a scheme to steal the gold from the Funeral Car where the body of a rail baron lies in state. Will is an artist though his father wants him to join the company and he’s stretched to the max as the plot thickens. This is a kid’s book, but a good story is a good story and this one’s a humdinger.
Don’t Skip Out On Me by Willy Vlautin
Horace works on a sheep ranch in Nevada but sets his sights on becoming a professional wrestler. He’s part Indian, part Irish, unwanted and driven. The old couple, his employers, love him as a son but he must leave to try and prove himself. What a heart-breaking journey as he takes on a flimsy Mexican identity, works exhaustively to get money to train, is terribly lonely, and is eventually battered and flattened. Sounds grim (and is) but there’s some surprising humor and strains of love and spirit that are hard to resist. Evocative.
Back next week.