Musically Yours: After Dark

I am slowly starting to read some Murakami. The first book of his that I read was Strange Library which was indeed strange and had such a beautiful cover featuring a library card!

Next I read Desire, part of the Vintage Mini Series, which had five of his short stories. I absolutely adored that book! Read my review here!

Next up was After Dark, which one of my colleagues gave me as well. I did not mind reading it since she said it was only 200 pages long. (I am going through a phase where I somehow cannot commit to books that are too long because I do not get time to read them!)

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Musically Yours!

The Book Cafe is proud to present a new series that will highlight the books that have a musical element in them!

The books could be about music, or have protagonists that love music or have some great music references or some other elements that make the book/story connected to some form of music!

Welcome to Musically Yours!

How can you contribute?

  • Read:
    Take a look at all the entries in this category!
  • Spread the music: Share and spread the word!
  • Guest Posts:
    Oh we love guest posts! Perhaps you know about books that are related to music? We would love to hear from you!
    Share your thoughts with akisabookworm@gmail.com

 

Musically Yours: Chicken With Plums

Read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi?

How about picking up another of her equally insightful and somberly black and white illustrated graphic novel, called, Chicken with Plums?

The musician Nasser Ali Khan’s favourite tar (an Iranian percussion instrument) is broken. He probably had the best one in the world. Now that it is broken, he goes on a search for an equally matched tar. But after failing to find such a one despite his repeated attempts, he consigns himself to a state where he simply only wishes to die.

The protagonist being a renowned musician having deep questions about his art and his life makes this novel part of The Book Cafe’s series called, Musically Yours!

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Words Of Music

Music is the universal language of mankind.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Which is why when it is intertwined with the written word, music helps to express what alone words could not.
Music dripping with the heartache of a rash mistake in love,music bubbling with pure passion and reaching ethereal heights. All this and more defines Vikram Seth’s novel, ‘ An Equal Music.’ It is steeped with Seth’s intense love for music and his love for literature. Both these loves merged splendidly together make this musical novel a beautiful love story of love lost and found and ephemerally cherished.

Though, ‘An Equal Music‘ is a masterful book,the plot is quite conventional. A violinist in his 30s named Michael is part of a string quartet, Maggiore Quartet. He lives in London and one day he accidentally sees Julie,the girl he loved 10 years ago and whom he left back in the days when they were music students in Vienna. This coincidence raises Michael’s hopes for reigniting their love and a string of events-Julie coming to meet Michael after one of his concert performances,she dropping in his apartment, their walks in the park-do just that(much to Michael’s pleasure). However, ten years is too big a gap to fill out by mere walking in the park.There are several changes in their lives that constantly keep altering the love affair they both find themselves in. These anecdotes of love are suffused with fine touches of soft musical notes,fugues and pieces of great musicians like Mozart, Schubert,Bach etc. that defines and even takes their fragile love forward. Apart from this love story, the plot revolves around the music of Maggiore Quartet-their trials and tribulations as well as the lives and relations of its musicians.

Seth’s poignant writing is bound to take the reader on a lovely musical journey as grand as any classical concert itself. However such brilliant writing cannot hide away the predictability of the story at the start. This can be forgiven because of the utter sensitivity,hope,loss and fragmentation that shines through which is not exactly unique but can hardly be called cliched either.
The plot in general tends to peter out and become too self indulgent. and tends to revolve around Michael alone for a large part of the story. This snatches from the novel the accolade of being completely perfect. Another negative aspect is the overuse of music jargon. Seth definitely has a wholesome knowledge of music but throwing a barrage of musical terms on an ignorant reader(like me) can sometimes take away the pleasure of enjoying the music depicted in words rather than increasing it.
Other than that,the novel is pure magic and a divine concert of love. Ending on an exalted note that states the importance of letting love go sometimes, ‘An Equal Music‘ does what most love stories fail to do:end on a bittersweet note with Bach’s glorious music that lingers on even after the cover is closed. Perhaps this lingering memory can create an awareness of the potential and power of keeping love alive without having to constantly assert it and even create an everlasting love for beautiful classical music.
I’ve learned what ‘classical’ means. It means something that sings and dances through sheer joy of existence.
Gustav Holst
Perhaps like Holst, one may learn to appreciate its existence too.

A la Debussy!

It may not be one of the greatest books, maybe out of print and may not even be about the best musician on the planet(though for some he definitely is!), but nonetheless, it is one marvellous novel that must be read.

Taken from goodreads.com

Clair De Lune‘ written by Pierre La Mure is a biography of France’s best musician and composer, Claude Debussy. Before you stop reading the review further because the word ‘biography’ has put you off, I must tell you that the biography is very much a novel, a story of his life rather than a collection of boring essays of Debussy’s life by other people.It is written beautifully tracing Debussy’s life from his birth to his eventual/sad death. La Mure wrote about Debussy’s life like a intricate story so much so that the reader is one with Debussy in his travails and success.

There is not much in the sense of a plot in the novel which is quite obvious as Pierre is writing about a true, famous French musician and not a fictional character.  Yet I will give you a short summary. The book starts with his aunt and her reflection of her motherly love for Debussy. She recalls his birth and how she convinced his parents to let him stay with him in Paris. His aunt recognized his talent and arranged piano lessons for him. His musical talent got him admission in the Paris Conservatoire. He even won the Prix De Rome. However, because of the difficult and experimental nature of his music, Debussy wasn’t able to impress many composers who dismissed his work as difficult to play. Debussy therefore continued to struggle and remain in poverty partly because of this and partly because he did not grab opportunities when he saw them and was not business minded. It was only after his opera’s performance,’Pelleas et Mesilande’, that Debussy tasted success and his music was appreciated. He was finally able to uplift himself from his crushing poverty. He died in 1918 in the middle of World War I due to cancer. Mixed with his musical life is his very colourful love life. He had affairs with several women which is greatly described in the book.

How much is truth and how much is dramatization in this biography I cannot judge. However, I am guessing that the love affairs that have been focused and etched out so vividly have definite touches of fiction, probably given to increase the reader’s curiosity and make them want to buy his novel. And that is one of the negative points in the book. It tends to focus more on his turbulent affairs than his music. He comes across as a womanizer than as a composer because of this. The book does mention that music was his first love but this love is never demonstrated elaborately. His music is relegated to the margins quite often which is quite disappointing. (Though it is quite fun reading pages and pages of love making he had with his love interests!) Another very disappointing aspect is that the novel exalts Debussy, creates a perfectness in him that is impossible in any individual, justifies all his actions and portrays him as a victim(particularly when it comes to his mean actions with his love interests).

Besides all these drawbacks, ‘Clair De Lune‘ is a breathtaking work, a beautifully crafted biography that ignites the life and times of the great misfit musician. It pulls the reader into the bygone latter years of the 19th century, paints a stunning, opulent, luxurious,enchanting picture of France and Paris and other European places that Debussy visits. The emotional ups and downs, the tempestuous love affairs, the harrowing poverty, the fantastical music moments and the astonishing success seep into the reader making it difficult to tear oneself away from the book’s magic and come back to the dreary,music-less 21st century world!

Clair De Lune‘ is a novel that is not to be missed. One does not need to be a music expert to read Claude Debussy’s life story. The book never throws a lot of confusing music jargons that laypeople won’t understand. One can however, fall in love with his music because of this novel and that won’t be futile as his music is pretty darn good with its melting, lilting, dreamy qualities. It is sure to be a heart stirring experience!

Do check out this book and his wonderful music. They are both worth the time and money!

The Last Song Of Dusk

‘The Last Song Of Dusk’ written by Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi is a beautifully conjured novel, a moving tale of singular people and their extraordinary lives.

Taken from scholarswithoutborders.in

The novel begins in the early 1900s’ with Anuradha’s story. She is going from her hometown Udaipur to Mumbai to meet Vardhaman Gandharva, a potential marriage partner. Just when it seems that things may not work out, Vardhaman openly admits his love for her and they predictably get married. Their love blossoms splendidly like a lovely flower. However, later, an unforeseen tragedy strikes them both tearing them asunder and changing Vardhaman irrevocably. Anuradha goes back to Udaipur where she dabbles and masters over the music and the wondrous songs that are an integral part of her soul. In the course of this stay, she meets other extraordinary people like Nandini who is an unusual artist and an even unusual woman having her own tragic tale. Will Anuradha and Vardhaman overcome the tragedy that ripped them apart? Will their love blossom fruitfully once again or will it be lost forever?

‘The Last Song of Dusk’ abounds with comparisons which increases the depth of the emotions, thoughts, situation etc., helps in understanding it better. The novel is replete with romanticized descriptions. Sanghvi has a very flowery style of writing. He infuses great grandeur and oodles of opulence not only in the story’s setting but also in the copious descriptions. Everything in the novel is exquisite. There is great abundance whether it is the character’s emotions, the royal settings of Udaipur or British city of Bombay or just the  physical beauty of a human. Everything is made out to be insanely beautiful and he uses exquisite words and expressions to convey that beauty to the reader. For eg, pashmina of exquisite remembrances. (pg. 80). There are instances of magic realism suffused in the story. Sanghvi has also made music an important part of the story. It is manifested literally in the many songs, symphonies and musical instruments that are described. There is also a certain kind of vibrant and even melancholic musicality in Sanghvi’s writing that is hard to miss or dislike.

There are certain sexist stereotypes that the books has-like Anuradha’a need for marriage, the tiffs between her and her mother-in-law etc.  Granted that the book is set in the 1900s’ where woman were treated inferior but if Anuradha can be bold enough to leave her husband’s house, Sanghvi should have been bold enough to write something more than the overemphasized importance of marriage in a woman’s life.

Leaving that one negative point aside, ‘The Last Song Of Dusk’ is undoubtedly a marvelous debut that spins together a lavish, grand love story that is bound to charm any reader. It is not the usual tale of love and sorrow, of man and a woman being in love, being happy, having troubles and reconciling them. It is much more as it infuses a portrayal of different sides and aspects of that one ubiquitous emotion called love. The novel reflects and gradually reveals layers and layers of that emotion between Anuradha and Vardhaman and other characters too like their son-Shloka or Nandini’s  idea of love and safety etc. The reader, if attentive enough, can easily pick on these ideas, learn that love can have two sides just like anything else and know that it can teach us all one lesson or two.

Its a poignant love story that depends on the stark emotions for its narration; its beauty, its invulnerability, its vulnerability, its magic, its pain and countless other things. It is  painfully beautiful, musical and aptly touches the right chord in the reader’s heart. ‘The Last Song Of Dusk’ is one story that will be in the reader’s heart long after its been perused.