Tuesday, 8 May 2001

Three short books

Listening to:

Schütz, Motet 8 from Quid commisisti.

Just read:

NYRB selections.

This book is a slim selection articles from the first two issues of the magazine The New York Review of Books. It was issued in 1988 to commemorate the NYRB's 25th anniversary. It has some interesting bits in it, including a review of Burroughs's Naked Lunch that compares the author to Swift. There's also quite an interesting review by W. H. Auden of a poet I've never heard of, and about whom Auden concludes that no-one is ever likely to want to put in the effort to understand him.

Graham Greene, A gun for sale.

Another exciting and engrossing thriller. This one is rather darker than Stamboul train, possibly because it was written four years later, in 1936. It features an assassin called Raven, another appealing poor actress journeying to a distant location by train, and all sorts of neat twists and turns.

Anne Pimlott Baker, Beethoven.

I'm achieving a great reading speed by reading very short books. This biography of the great composer was only just over 100 pages long, and in a generously spaced layout. It was good, in a bare-bones kind of way. It contains the basic facts of Beethoven's life, talks about when he was composing what, discusses his deafness and his personal relationships with others.

On the other hand, there is no real discussion of the music, neither its characteristics nor its impact on the people around Beethoven. Beethoven also comes across as an eccentric misanthrope in a rather unqualified way. Perhaps this is accurate, but there just isn't space in the book to provide more nuance.

It's made me very keen to hear the piece Wellington's Victory. This was a patriotic pot-boiler written to commemorate a victory of the Duke of Wellington in Spain against the French, and is apparently never performed today. Statements like that definitely make me want to hear something.

To read next:

Graham Greene, The confidential agent. The Graham Greene kick is caused by the fact that I bought a boxed set of six of his lighter novels, and I'm now working my way through them, alternating with the other things on the list.

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