21st Century Literature discussion

Orfeo
This topic is about Orfeo
38 views
2015 Book Discussions > Orfeo - General Discussion, Spoilers Allowed (December 2015)

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Here is the thread for this month's moderator pick - spoilers welcome. There aren't regular chapters in this book so we will discuss this book as a whole.

I'm a bit behind on the book, meaning I've only read the very beginning, so it'll be a couple days before I have discussion questions. In the meantime, feel free to discuss the book or raise any questions or topics you may have!


Portia I'm behind as well but my "excuse" is that I keep re-reading passages. I felt as though I was walking in Peter's neighborhood when I read pp. 1 & 2. The story of Fidelio is beautiful. Powers' description of Peter's confusion over smart phones is spot on. And so on.


message 3: by Jon (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jon Norimann (jnorim) I'll be following views here with interest as you all dig into the book. I started early and finished it a week or so ago. Overall I wasn't terribly impressed but more on that as the discussion develops.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2292 comments I listened to this in audio the year it was on the National Book Award longlist for fiction and really liked it. I had no idea there were not chapters! It is a great book to read in audio. The narrator is excellent.


message 5: by Casceil (new) - added it

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Caroline, could we have a thread for "comment as you read"? I am moving through the book rather slowly (I'm at about 25%.) I would love to be able to discuss what I'm reading, but I don't necessarily want to be exposed to spoilers later in the book. My thinking is that in a "comment as you read" thread, we could mark spoilers with page numbers, so that individual readers can read comments on parts of the book they have read.


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Casceil wrote: "Caroline, could we have a thread for "comment as you read"? I am moving through the book rather slowly (I'm at about 25%.) I would love to be able to discuss what I'm reading, but I don't necessari..."

Great idea - and done!

Linda, it has chapter-like sections throughout the book that are distinguished by lines but there are no officially numbered chapters.

Portia, I loved the story of Fidelio as well - definitely moved me early on to see Peter lose her.

I've finally finished the book, though am about to run out the door so will have more to add later.

For now, what did you think of the book? Did any pieces of Peter's story stand out to you? I found the book to move along pretty quickly but it sounds like others found it more slow going. I struggled a bit with some of his lengthier descriptions of music theory and history.

I'm not very familiar with the story of Orfeo or Orpheus (will try to add more on this later), but for those who are, do you think the title of the book works with the story? Is Peter a man desperate to share something new and great with the world or is he an odd character who continuously makes poor decisions? Neither? Both? Similarly, Peter often shares quick histories of composers, most of whom have had to escape persecution. Is Peter comparing himself to these composers? Is that comparison justified?

What do you think of the story's use of the media's presence in his life and how his ex-wife and daughter think the media and authorities will "make an example out of him?" I found this piece of the book to stand out significantly in light of current events. This morning, I read that CNN and MSNBC have received some flack for airing a live tour of the San Bernardino's shooters' home and showing things like the mother's social security card and driver's license to viewers. Whether that type of journalism is ethical is a separate discussion, but it is interesting to consider how much such fast paced (and aggressive?) media dissemination and public perception alter the story.


message 7: by Jon (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jon Norimann (jnorim) Caroline wrote: "..authorities will "make an example out of him?" I found this piece of the book to stand out significantly in light of current events. This morning, I read that CNN and MSNBC have received some flack for airing a live tour of the San Bernardino's shooters' home"

That backhander to media making a sensation out of anything was a nice detail in Orfeo. Although I thought the author could have made more out of it.

Let's also be clear on the distinction between someone innocent like Peter in Orfeo and the guilty San Bernardino perpetrators.


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Jon - a good distinction to make. Obviously, Peter's escapades within the book are not comparable to what the shooters did in San Bernardino. I was brought up the live tour of the shooters' home for purposes of showing where some media outlets go to great lengths to be "the first" to break news instead of focusing on the quality of the information they present.


Portia Wow, I could make a long comment on the landlord's need for his 15 minutes of fame and CNN's ability to find people with that need and to exploit them. Anderson Cooper (Little Coop in our house) uses his extraordinary charm to get people to talk to him first.

Nuf. I don't want to redirect this thread.


message 10: by Peter (last edited Dec 11, 2015 08:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments So, I finished this tonight. It is not particularly about what the short description makes it sound like, and I, for one, am glad. Yes, there is a story about a retired music professor running afoul of official paranoia and becoming a fugitive, but that's rather like the 10% of the iceberg that lies above water, the rest is his past and the music, and that's the heart of the book. I actually found Powers' description of the music more exciting than the 'main' plot. And even the main plot can be seen as a portion of the Hero's Journey, as much symbolic as literal.

And the questions it raises are interesting. Does Art have a value in and of itself, even if no one interacts with it? What is a life well lived? Is our society dominated by fear? What is music good for, anyways? All our choices have a cost, but what costs are too much?

It's not an unflawed book, and the ending is ... somewhat dubious to me, but I gave it five stars because it caught me and wouldn't let me go, and four stars wouldn't have been honest.


James | 59 comments Caroline wrote: "I'm not very familiar with the story of Orfeo or Orpheus (will try to add more on this later), but for those who are, do you think the title of the book works with the story?"

Nor me! and I'm certainly not familiar with any of the music either - yet I found this book pretty compelling.

I found an interview with RP and the first question he is asked is about the title - loads of revealing stuff in here too.

http://www.raintaxi.com/a-fugitive-la...


James | 59 comments Caroline wrote: "Is Peter a man desperate to share something new and great with the world or is he an odd character who continuously makes poor decisions? Neither? Both?"

I see Peter Els as a driven eccentric who produces his works without much care as to whether he gains an audience. He needs his works to be performed to give them life and that’s where Richard comes in. If he needed an audience he would write more popular music. Instead he goes further and further to the edge. I don’t think he makes bad decisions – don’t think he makes decisions at all. He simply sees his next ‘project’ and goes for it – he can’t help it


Portia Is it time that the two threads, Comment As You Read and Orfeo Spoilers be combined? I find I am going back and forth a lot.


Portia I view Peter as one of those magical creatures who is always taken care of. They don't ask for help, it just appears when they need it. Examples: his first wife, Maddy; Richard; his daughter who in turn gives him Fidelio; the woman who supplies him with the cell phone; Richard again.


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Peter, I'd agree that the book is pretty different from how it was described and am also happy with how it turned out. The ending was a bit odd for me as well.

Jim, thank's for sharing the article. Also, I like your take on him not making decisions at all. It sounds as though, in the end, his ex-wife and daughter may have come around to that view too because they appear to be fairly forgiving.

Portia, I think there may be one or two people still reading along so I am hesitant to combine them at this stage.

In addition to him always seeming to be taken care of, it seems as though he's able to get closure with almost everyone in his life - I'm mainly thinking of his chance meeting with Clara and his last meeting with his ex-wife who lets him know that she doesn't regret any of their time together.


message 16: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2564 comments Mod
I finished the book this morning and really enjoyed it - found the musical criticism fascinating and liked the way the wider storyline hooked it into the concerns and paranoias of modern society. I have always found the wilder excesses of 20th century serious music interesting to read about whether or not it produced anything listenable, and the book left me wanted to listen to and understand more. I think Els's character is only a mild caricature of a long established artistic stereotype - such people clearly do exist whether we like them or not.


Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 120 comments I finished this book two days ago and I really enjoyed it. I'm still listening to classical music right now because of it, and today being Beethoven's birthday anniversary it helps hehe.
As some of you, I also enjoyed the stories of the musical compositions more than anything else in the book, I was not familiar with any of them as I haven't studied much about composers, and I was delighted to see how real life was as exciting and insane as a work of fiction. And how beautiful music can come out of it.
I also enjoyed how Peter grows and becomes this 70 year old fugitive throughout the book. I don't know if I agree with all the choices he made in life, but I like where Powers too him.
Jim, thanks so much for sharing the interview, it explains several things that I didn't know. I always like to hear from the author what some things mean to him and why he wrote them. I specially liked that he knew someone like Clara, since she definitely changed Peter's life drastically, I guess it did the same to him.

As for who Peter is as a character, I do believe that he wanted to create something grandiose with his music, and that is why he decided to leave his family and move to NY to work with Richard. In the end Music ruled most of his life, and that made him somewhat odd, but believable.

I don't want to comment too much on the fear driven society, but I think it's definitely true, specially in the US. And the media feeds off of it like nothing else. That is why I don't watch the news at all.


back to top