Sunday, April 5, 2015


Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 28

The topic of this week’s book review is musicianship.

Musicianship is a common theme of three different stories. The first is An Equal Music, a novel by Vikram Seth about a European string quartet. Another about chamber musicians in New York is the movie A Late Quartet. The third, and most unusual, is The Bear Comes Home, a novel by Rafi Zabor.

Musicianship is the first thing you notice about any band. Do you hear individual instruments and voices or a mellow blend? Inexperienced amateurs are too concerned with projecting their personal sound. Professionals know that listening to each other is a measure of not only artistry, but also of generosity.

In An Equal Music, a violinist who plays in a chamber quartet carries on a love affair with an accomplished pianist. The main issue with them is mutual trust, which is also the crucial element that binds a successful quartet. However, one of them has been slowly growing deaf and is hiding it from the other. As we learn, a relationship can work, for a while, even if it is not based on truth, but on a willingness to agree.

In A Late Quartet, the second violinist and the violist are married to each other. The violinist is having doubts about his playing, which leads a brief affair with a dancer. The arrogant first violinist is giving music lessons to his colleagues’ talented daughter. He betrays his bond to them by allowing the girl to seduce him. Again, it’s all about trust and cooperation, sometimes in spite of the underlying truth.

In The Bear Comes Home, the bear in the title is an alto sax player who is crazy about jazz, girls, and Shakespeare. He’s not a bearlike man, he’s a furry animal. And, he’s beset by the blues. Oddly, he blames his difficulties getting along with his human musician friends on everything except his essential bearishness. His situation reminds us how immigrants must feel, knowing they’re so much like the rest of us, while we can only see their differences.

Musicianship – it’s about collaboration, and what it takes for all us kids to play nice. Not just in music, but in personal relationships and even in international negotiations.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I’m the author of Mr. Ballpoint. Be sure to catch these podcasts at

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