Sunday, August 5, 2007

Buy the CD first? Novel soundtracks...

I don't often go scurrying to the record shop after finishing a book, but two upcoming novels absolutely demand it, especially if (like me) you don't have an extensive classical music library. A former roommate of mine used to mock me mercilessly for having a CD called Opera Without Words, but that was over fifteen years ago and I'm slowly and happily expanding my musical horizons. I'll blog in more detail about these two novels closer to their publication dates, but just to tease you a bit, I have to say they are two of the most exciting and satisfying bits of writing I've encountered all year. Janette Turner Hospital's Orpheus Lost, is absolutely my favourite fall book of the season so far. It's a modern retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth (with the genders reversed) that is also a terrifically sensual love story, a multi-generational tale about how families cope differently with the effects of war, and a contemporary political suspense thriller to boot. We meet Miska, one of the main characters playing his violin in a Boston subway station and not surprisingly, he's playing a piece from Gluck's opera Orphee and Euridice. The music becomes such an integral part of the love story, that I simply had to rush out to buy a CD. The opera was staged and recorded in both Italian and French so choose your language of love and listen to it before reading the book. You have time - it's coming out in October.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a manuscript of Jonathan Coe's new novel The Rain Before it Falls (out this September in England, but we have to wait until March for its North American release) and again, a piece of music becomes a crucial part of this beautifully sad novel about memory, lost loves and generational mistakes. I won't be at all surprised if it hits the Booker shortlist this fall. I can't say too much about it at the moment although parts do take place in Toronto and Saskatoon! But in preparation and to enhance your future reading experience, familiarize yourself with Joseph Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne, especially the piece entitled Bailero. Again, I didn't previously know this music but it is an extraordinarily beautiful piece that has gone straight onto my iPOD. (Incidentally, if you used to shop at the now defunct Sam's on Yonge Street and ever wandered into their classical section, that knowledgeable staff member who knows EVERYTHING and is so passionate in his recommendations, is now working just a few doors down in the classical section at HMV, thank God! I shall always be grateful to him for recommending Saint-Saens' Symphonie No. 3 which has now become one of my favourite pieces of music.)
Finally, while on the subject of music, just in case (again like me) you were waiting desperately for the soundtrack to The Lives of Others to be released - hooray - it's now out on CD. And the movie itself, which won this year's Best Foreign film Oscar will be out on DVD later this month as well. Definately check it out if you haven't already seen it. Apart from its wonderful score by Gabriel Yared (who scored The English Patient), it contains one of the best scenes ever shot in a bookstore. To say more would spoil it for you, but I defy you bookloving crowd out there not to shed a tear when you get there. Me, I tear up just listening to the soundtrack.

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