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How to live and play the piano (etc.)

September 24, 2010

Here’s a handful of books that caught my interest this week. These are neither recommendations — I haven’t read them — nor forecasts, rather encounters that took me down a path to learn more about the books.  All part of the ongoing discovery of what’s out there for us to read and enjoy.

How to Live or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Blackwell. This book sounds like a great way to be introduced to Montaigne, not only his life but the answers in his famous essays about how one best lives a life. Blackwell’s biography of the 16th century philosopher was first released in Britain. The Guardian’s review written by Ruth Scurr says this: “Central as the essays are to [Blackwell’s] own approach to his life, it is ultimately his life-loving ­vivacity that she succeeds in communicating to her readers: ‘What he left behind was all the better for being imperfect, ­ambiguous, inadequate and vulnerable to distortion. Oh Lord, one might imagine Montaigne exclaiming, by all means let me be misunderstood.'”

Piano Lessons: A Memoir by Anna Goldsworthy. I’m a fan of life stories about piano lessons, being one who studied the piano many years and still plays my Yamaha U3. Goldsworthy is an Australian pianist who performs internationally and records with the ABC Classics label. She is also a teacher and on the Liszt list. That means she studied with a teacher who’s in a lineage of teachers who studied with composer Franz Liszt.  From the book’s website: “With wit and affection, Goldsworthy captures the hopes and uncertainties of youth, the fear and exhilaration of performing and the complex bonds between teacher and student.”

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye. A first novel in which a man returns home to Duluth, MN, to take care of his estranged, dying father. At the heart of their 35-year broken relationship is a shipwreck the father survived. From the publisher’s website: “When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other.”  Geye’s debut is listed in Publishers Weekly’s Rousing the Sleepers: Top 20 hand-sells from independent presses this fall.

The Isabella Breviary. According to the publisher’s website, this is an exact replica of the 15th century illuminated manuscript given to Isabella of Castille to commemorate the double marriage of her children. (The original is owned by the British Museum.) Isabella is the queen who sponsored Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. Publishing company Moleiro specializes in the reproduction of codices, maps and works of art between the 13th and 16th centuries. Fun to peruse online, not only this breviary but the several illuminated texts offered by Moleiro. 987 numbered copies being sold.

One with Others [a little book of her days] by C. D. Wright. Several years ago I discovered C. D. Wright via her poem “More Blues and the Abstract Truth.” It remains one of my favorite poems. Her poetry doesn’t consistently work for me, yet I always check it out because when it does, it’s terrific. In October, her new collection published by Copper Canyon Press finds its center in a civil rights incident that happened in her native Arkansas.  From the publisher’s website: “This history leaps howling off the page.”

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