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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dissonance, by Lisa Lenard-Cook

  LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer's Book

The dissonance found in 20th century music is the direct result of a world at variance with itself. Over an extended period of time the discord reveals itself in the arts.

One way modern composers have chosen to address the increased
fragmentation of life in the twentieth century is to create a more
fragmented music.” (p. 77)

In her recently re-issued novella, Dissonance, Lenard-Cook elaborates on this theme by focusing on the irony (although irony is not a direct theme, it is nonetheless inherent within the stories context) experienced during the Holocaust when the elite Nazi's jailed artists at the Terezin Concentration Camp for their entertainment. Jews were not valued enough to be allowed to work, go to school, or even live, yet could play beautiful chamber and symphonic music for Nazi's before being shipped off to their death at Auschwitz, if they lived long enough to make it there.

Never being able to fathom the degree to which man can manifest his prejudices, Jewish musicians continued to compose concert music while at Terezin. In essence, they had hope for a future tomorrow when they could share their creations. After the war, in the later part of the century, manuscripts that were saved by the few remaining musicians and their families, were collected, produced, and published in a series of moving CD's - Terezin Music Anthology.

Lenard-Cook's exposition is intricately composed. She creates a series of parallel themes intrinsic to the development of her story. For example: music and physics, harmony and dissonance, prejudice and impartiality; and likewise between characters: Hana and Anna - two musicians separated by a generation, but connected by Anna's mother, also a musician - fathers and husbands, mothers and daughters.

Someone once suggested that music sounds the way emotions
feel, that music reveals the hidden patterns of our inner lives in
the same way that mathematics reveals the outer, physical world.” (p. 63)

These relationships are central to the book's plot and thematic structures.

The author's writing is erudite, she has researched her subject matter and translated it with sensitivity. Her style and narrative are at times eloquent while at other times tedious. She has difficulty arriving at the main point of her story. The reader becomes frustrated following her digressions. Once Lenard-Cook reaches her peak conflict, it is anti-climatic because it does not match the scope of the intended novel. Much of the resolution does not seem plausible. The denouement is academic and the central structure is marginalized. It is a major flaw in an otherwise well conceived novel.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Don Casmurro, by Machado de Assis

There are so many great books, I feel a need to, every once in a while, look back and share a book of note that I recommend from my library. Ferris and I chose this book as one of our 2011 summer reads.

My Review
Dom Casmurro is a tender and intimate look at a budding love that flowers and dies before it has had the opportunity to experience the seasons of a lifetime. The roots remain for a while, alive and struggling for life, but the climatic conditions are not enough to sustain it. The once beautiful flower suffers a slow and painful death. One can attempt to replace the plant with a fabric imitation, but without real life, it would be soul-less. Such is the essence of Machado’s lovely portrait of a man so consumed by love, that with fits of obsessive jealousy, he destroys it.

Machado’s is a timeless theme, yet the elegance with which he develops his characters is unique. There is, Jose Dias with his beloved superlatives and his tendency to walk with, “a casual slow step; not the lethargic gate of a lazy man, but a logical calculated slowness, a complete syllogism, the premise before the consequence, the consequence before the conclusion”. Exquisite! There is Benito, the protagonist, narrator and beloved of Capitu. The man who feels, “Daydreams are like other dreams; they are woven according to the patterns of our wishes and memories.” Yet, he forgets to bear this in mind when sharing his story. Thus, the reader is left to question the accuracy of Benito’s narrative. Machado plays with the reader through Benito’s voice so we are left to wonder, what is real and what was only real in the eyes of Benito. Finite conclusions cannot be drawn. Such is the mystery and genius of Machado’s writing. His is a story that continues to play in the readers psyche, long after its reading.