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The Musical Illusionist: and Other Tales

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  19 reviews
In the tradition of Borges and Calvino, The Musical Illusionist is an interwoven collection of postmodern folk tales—disappearing manuscripts, neurological anomalies, teleporting bacteria, and an unforgettable composer who manipulates sound to bend perception—that masterfully blends scientific curiosity with magical-realist caprice.

Alex Rose has published stories and essay
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Akashic Books
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Do you ever find a book and wonder (in a giddy and solipsistic daydream) if perhaps it was written exactly for you?

I have just barely started this book, but the overarching framework of the Library of Tangents replete with exhibits, mathematical diagrams and meditations on space/time along the way have made me a big fan. I want to tattoo the whole book on my body.

The following is taken from the back cover:

Disappearing manuscripts. Profane numbers. Extinct bacteria. Cities without shadows. A lan
Tim Storm
Alex Rose’s The Musical Illusionist was remarkably generative for me. It’s set up as a series of exhibits in the “Library of Tangents.” Rose writes what amount to fabulist encyclopedia entries as he describes things like the “book of glass,” a novel that contains within it clever stories in which form imitates content, like the parable of the monk, who in trying to achieve ultimate wisdom, climbs higher and higher up a mountain; as he does so, the text of the book gets smaller and smaller until ...more
Black Elephants
Halloween Night, 2007: I'm at a book reading (where else?) for a new publishing house called the Hotel St. George. Chance brought me to them, and chance favored them because not only were the readers the most innovative readers I'd seen read, but they were also (to me) a glimpse into the next generation of active, multi-dimensional writers. I mean they were writers, but they were also performers—engaging performers, interested in pulling in their audience with the play and power of words.

Thorne Clark
The book alludes to, and is billed as being in the tradition of, Borges, Calvino, and other favorite authors in that vein. But while those authors explored patterns and infinite loops and other generally cool concepts in the service of metaphor, they always were first and foremost telling a story. The Musical Illusionist is missing the key element of storytelling -- narrative, episodic or otherwise. It reads as an an arbitrary mix of actual historical fact and interesting faux-histories made up ...more
May 30, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Allison
Thoughts on finishing:
LOVED IT. This book was awesome. I am not going to lie and say some of it didn't go over my head (a lot of mathematical references) but what I did understand was brilliant. I bet this guy was awesome to play with as a kid, his imagination is limitless. Plus you can tell he really researched a lot of his material. There are parts in the stories when you can hardly tell the fiction from the fact. Can't wait to read something else by him.

Early thoughts while just beginning:
I like this premise far more than I like this book. It nestles into the shelves in the Borges/Calvino section; it reeks of Steven Millhauser's "Barnum Museum" and Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder. All of these are good things. But somehow, reading this book made me want read more Borges and Calvino and Millhauser and less and less Alex Rose.

In short, I believed myself to be the ideal audience for this book--I ain't.

Mar 23, 2009 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ADD renaissance types
Recommended to Heather by: boingboing
I wanted to like this more than I actually ended up liking it. The premise is utterly delightful, and some of the stories are fun (in terms of mental gymnastics, of course). But some of the stories were also rather dull, so I end up with a mediocre (but still solid) rating of 3 stars.

I must say, my favorite parts were the sections between the stories. The language and mystery there was simply delightful.
Jul 11, 2009 Samantha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: former liberal arts kids.
this book contains the imagined histories and obscure languages of faraway lands, remote tribes, and invented cultures. it requires a belief in magic (but only when magic can be explained by science) and a postmodern apathy toward truth that can only come from knowing that history is mostly made-up anyway--so it's okay not to know what is real or fake.

Nov 06, 2010 Teddee marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: literature
I saw Alex do a reading of the Musical Illusionist story, it was an interesting treat to hear the audio accompanying the story. I've never seen so many people buy the book after a reading. Highly recommended, he's a talented writer that I hope to read more of, I like the way he weaves facts into a fictional historical narrative.
This book has sharp writing but was too heavily philosophic / scientific for my tastes. A beautiful physical production though - color images throughout, lovely matte finish, heavy stock paper, etc. - certainly as much as any author could ask from any publisher.
Aug 26, 2008 Dayna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who liked Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder
I kept thinking this has to be true, even though it clearly says "Fiction" on the cover. It was so much fun to read, this treading the line between the scientific and the fantastical. A lovely little read with pretty pictures to boot!
Read this at Sara’s. Was pretty good, all in all, but I seriously longed for some sort of pointers (citations/references) to that which was based on fact. I guess there is just too much admixture of reality and make believe in this for me.
Mar 01, 2009 Joshua marked it as to-read
Shelves: on-hiaitus
10 or 15 years ago, I would have ploughed through this book. But while I appreciate the Borges/Calvino/Pavic style a whole lot, it just didn't pull me in enough to finish it. Still, I'd like to give it another go sometime.
Sarah Pottenger
David! You need to read this! I thought of you the whole time I was reading.

Another short book in my quest to read 100 in 2008. Little weird vignettes. Hard to describe, but very good.
Lainie Fefferman
reading this book is like sitting in an overstuffed dark leather chair while staring out a stained glass window in a wood paneled library and drinking a hot cup of genius cocoa.
Sep 27, 2007 Mark marked it as to-read
Just started, but so far I'm liking this a lot. Like a cross between Paul Collins' stories of forgotten histories and Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of Khazars-type mystical science.
Brian Foley
Years later, when the dust of history covers this is used book shops across the modern world, the inheritors will take everything in this book as truth.
Colin Hamilton
Not great, but I enjoyed the ambition. Someone to watch.
Great stuff so far.
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