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There are a few books whose form is based on a musical work. The examples which come to mind are Richard Powers' Goldbug Variations, which takes its form from the Goldberg Variations, and Anthony Burgess' Napoleon Symphony, which takes its form from a source too obvious to mention. Douglas Hofstadter wrote a dialogue in the form of a crab canon in Godel, Escher, Bach (i.e., two voices, one the exact reverse of the other).
A bit of an obscure one, but Gunter Grass' novel The Meeting at Telgte revolves around a (fictional) meeting of German poets and intellectuals towards the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1647. There is an amusing passage where a major composer comes in whose very presence is towering, authoritarian and masculine and who treats the poets as if mere children.
As it is 20 plus years since I read it I am not totally sure which composer it is - it might be Schutz as his dates would fit. Can anyone help me out?
Overall the novel, though of interest, was a bit of a dry read...
Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...
Literary choices so far have been mostly high brow.Here is one for the beach 'The Music Lovers, a Harry Stoner Mystery' written by Jonathan Valin.
A good read,must be as one of the few books I have read twice!To give anyone interested a feel for the book I will quote the blurb-
Enter Leon Tubin,collector of vintage LP recordings,who is sure another member of his music-listening group is ripping him off.They're all jealous of his record library,especially his Wagner-loving rival,Sherwood Loeffler.Harry thinks the whole thing's peanuts,but Leon insists that the recordings in question are worth about $10,000.Moreover he's prepared to offer Harry a cash advance.Harry takes the case.
Thankyou so much for that! Good to hear from someone else who read it at the time it came out like me, and who knows the background. It might well be Schutz then. It is amusing because the composer figure is far from gracious and compassionate but a great all-powerful and intimidating presence!
The passage in question, if memory serves, is somewhere near the beginning - first twenty or thirty pages or so.
I don't know if any composer attended the 1947 meeting. It might be an interesting mental puzzle to try to work out who it was if one did.
I don't know what happened to my original copy. Occasionally I have a book clear out and shift a box somewhere like a charity shop or a church fete, but I tend to keep hold of interesting novels especially in genres like magic realism and the nouveau roman. It's amazing what you can find in second hand book shops as I'm sure you know, as when I discovered BS Johnson a few years ago I managed to find an original copy of his second novel Albert Angelo in such a shop in Hebden Bridge. Thankfully Jonathan Coe's massive biography (Like a Fiery Elephant in Picador Hardback)came out shortly after I discovered Brian Stanley, and Picador brought out The Unfortunates (the famous novel in a box - that's the one with all the loose papers and little booklets that you shuffle and read in random order). Though smaller than the original (I think having seen a photo of BS holding the original version which looked like A4 size papers) it was badly in need of a re-print, though it is £20 the box set and I have seen some silly prices on Amazon.
One rarity I have is The Immortal One, a cine-novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, which I once saw on Amazon around £150.Mine came from Foyles I think in student days.
Anyway, nice to digress! I have checked today and I can get The Meeting at Telgte on Amazon (at a modest price), so I think I will re-order and have a re-read...
Another good thread with lots of suggestions to explore...
All this is getting very up my street and down my alley. There's apparently been some speculation that a model for Schütz in Grass's novel could be Henze, who in his autobiography Bohemian Fifths talks about being taken to a Gruppe 47 meeting by the author Wolfgang Hildesheimer (it's where he meets Ingeborg Bachmann). This has been disputed on the grounds that at the time Henze, about 21, would have lacked the stature given (inevitably) to Schütz in the book. A book by Bettina Varwig called Histories of Heinrich Schütz, which came out last year, raises more disquieting possibilities, though they don't turn on a specific Gruppe 47 identification for Grass's Schütz.
I've wondered: could it be that when Grass's Schütz appears we're meant to think of Karl Amadeus Hartmann? I don't believe he ever attended a meeting of Gruppe 47, but his seniority and significance for postwar German composers were immense, and his withdrawn, "austere" demeanour in the book might point to Hartmann's stance of "inner emigration." Further, isn't Grass's Schütz looking to write an opera? - Hartmann of course did write a Thirty Years' War opera, Simplicius Simplicissimus, based on a work by Grimmelshausen, the novel's Gelnhausen (and, up to a point, Grass). I'm not suggesting a watertight connection here - fiction is never that simple - but I am honestly unaware if anyone has ever proposed this, and it seems at least plausible. If anyone does find it somewhere, could they please announce?
I have, by the way, seen reviews of an opera based on Grass's novel by Eckehard Mayer, first performed at Dortmund in 2005. Schütz's role is evidently a spoken one! I'd like to hear the piece.
Hello Partsong, I didn't expect to see B S Johnson mentioned here (or Alain Robbe-Grillet). When I was a schoolboy I bought a copy of the signed, limited edition of Poems Two, which I still have and which is worth quite a lot now. I read the Coe biography too, an fascinating and thorough piece of work.
At the moment I'm reading 'The Letter Killers Club', by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, which includes a chapter in which a character becomes obsessed by the very early examples of polyphonic chant composed by Notker Balbulus at the Abbey of St. Gall.
I loved Ann Patchett's Bel Canto (an interesting footnote that I heard, apparently Renee Fleming wanted to buy the movie rights to it but failed....darn!).
What about all of the musical references and story influences in Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse books (and in the t.v. episodes based upon his books)? I've really enjoyed both of them! :-)
Good stuff DST, Petra and Arbutus. That's what I like about this forum, that there are others who explore the same - what to call them - interesting byways.
DST you may be right in thinking it's either Henze or Hartman - it would as you say have to be someone respected in 1947. What kind of genre is this novel? Post-modern retrospective faction?! Interesting to use real figures in the 17th Century to suggest equally real figures in the 20th!
Arbutus - yes the Coe bioghraphy is amazing. Shame about BS' early suicide. Another experimental British novelist who also committed suicide strangely round about the same time - early seventies - was Ann Quinn - can't find her books anywhere - but one of her novels Berg was made into the black comedy film Killing Dad with Denholm Elliott.
DST your comments are fascinating. I definitely need to re-read it and do a bit of detective work!
I'm even more amazed to find Ann Quin get a mention! I have old Calder editions of her novels, but they have all been reprinted by the wonderful Dalkey Archive Press http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/author/?fa=ShowAuthor&Person_ID=1580 .
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