Book Description (from Amazon.com) Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a 'window on the west'-and culminating withBook Description (from Amazon.com) Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a 'window on the west'-and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet Regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself-its character, spiritual essence, history, and destiny. What did it mean to be Russian-an illiterte serf or an imperial courtier? And where was the true Russia-in Europe or in Asia? Figes skillfully interweaves the great works-by Dostoevsky and Chekhov, Stravinsky and Chagall-with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from eating, drinking, and bathing habits to beliefs about death and the spirit world. His fascinating characters range high and low: the revered Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search the wilderness for the Kingdom of God; the serf girl Praskovya, who became Russian opera's first superstar, won the heart of her owner, and shocked society by becoming his wife; the composer Stravinsky, who returned to Russia after fifty years in the West and discovered that the homeland he had left had never left his heart. Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in Tolstoy's War and Peace, the spirit of 'Russianness' is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory-a powerful force that unified a vast and riven country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state....more
Book Description from amazon.com A moving story of the remarkable bond between a journalist in search of a story and a homeless, classically trained muBook Description from amazon.com A moving story of the remarkable bond between a journalist in search of a story and a homeless, classically trained musician—destined to be a major motion picture from DreamWorks, starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.
When Steve Lopez saw Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles’ skid row, he found it impossible to walk away. More than thirty years earlier, Ayers had been a promising classical bass student at Juilliard—ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans—until he gradually lost his ability to function, overcome by schizophrenia. When Lopez finds him, Ayers is homeless, paranoid, and deeply troubled, but glimmers of that brilliance are still there.
Over time, Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers form a bond, and Lopez imagines that he might be able to change Ayers’s life. Lopez collects donated violins, a cello, even a stand-up bass and a piano; he takes Ayers to Walt Disney Concert Hall and helps him move indoors. For each triumph, there is a crashing disappointment, yet neither man gives up. In the process of trying to save Ayers, Lopez finds that his own life is changing, and his sense of what one man can accomplish in the lives of others begins to expand in new ways.
Poignant and ultimately hopeful, The Soloist is a beautifully told story of friendship and the redeeming power of music. ...more
I have made it halfway through this book, and I just can't go any farther. I'm giving it two stars, because there was enough there to keep me going foI have made it halfway through this book, and I just can't go any farther. I'm giving it two stars, because there was enough there to keep me going for over 200 pages, but I'm just not getting any more out of it. It is exceedingly slow and introspective. The characters are, yes, self-conscious to a fault, anxious, defensive, and obviously don't have a clue what happiness is. The convoluted dialogue is hard for me to imagine anyone actually participating in. I realize this was written in the late 1960s but it felt so much older. I don't know what else was published in Britain in 1970, but seriously? this is the winner of the first Whitbread award?
KIRKUS REVIEW (Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1972): Although this is basically a sentimental book (the title referring to the theme song of one of its two central characters -- a former band leader -- indicates that), it hasn't the appeal of her Logical Girl (1967) and it is more consistent with her earlier work which offered a substantial sociology of Anglo-Jewry. Throughout the first half of this book, ostensibly dealing with the making of a documentary by four or five people, Gerda Charles examines the soul of the Jew always suffering from his Jewishness without even the ""protection of stupidity""; always worrying his way, self-consciously but ambitiously, out of his ""small"" world of the People of the Book at a time, 50 years before this, when in their crass ignorance they were not even ""People of the Word."" This is the past inherited by the Jewish poet, minor, ingrown and consumptive, who will be the subject of the documentary; but it also imposes its allegiances on Michele, a writer and a teacher and a Rabbi's daughter, and Jimmy Marchant, the band leader, who have never found personal happiness. Less susceptible to it is Georges Franck, director of the documentary -- a charmer, a betrayer who finally will hurt everyone in connection with this project but still will enable Michele and Marchant to find some sort of compromise together for their half-lives. . . . The novel moves very slowly since the author is far more interested in permitting her characters to assess themselves and each other -- it is sometimes talky but not preachy. At one point she questions whether life should take precedence over art -- in this case it is life, and Gerda Charles, with her very level intelligence and practical realism, deals with it on just those terms.