Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB (last edited Dec 28, 2010 10:21AM) (new)

Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 7278 comments Mod
The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway

Matthew Gallaway

From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, a sweeping tale of passion, music, and the human heart’s yearning for connection.

Martin is a forty-year-old lawyer who, despite his success, feels disoriented and disconnected from his life in post-9/11 Manhattan. But even as he comes to terms with the missteps of his past, he questions whether his life will feel more genuine going forward.

Decades earlier, in the New York of the 1960s, Anna is destined to be a grande dame of the international stage. As she steps into the spotlight, however, she realizes that the harsh glare of fame may be more than she bargained for.

Maria is a tall, awkward, ostracized teenager desperate to break free from the doldrums of 1970s Pittsburgh. When the operatic power of her extraordinary voice leads Maria to Juilliard, New York seems to hold possibilities that are both exhilarating and uncertain.

Lucien is a young Parisian at the birth of the modern era, racing through the streets of Europe in an exuberant bid to become a singer for the ages. When tragedy leads him to a magical discovery, Lucien embarks on a journey that will help him—and Martin, Maria, and Anna—learn that it’s not how many breaths you take, it’s what you do with those you’re given.

This unlikely quartet is bound together across centuries and continents by the strange and spectacular history of Richard Wagner’s masterpiece opera Tristan and Isolde. Grandly operatic in scale, their story is one of music and magic, love and death, betrayal and fate. Matthew Gallaway’s riveting debut will have readers spellbound from the opening page to its breathtaking conclusion.


Books of The Times
To Wagner, With Love and MorbidityBy SCOTT TIMBERG
Published: December 27, 2010
Sign In to E-Mail



LinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. A brooding seventh grader whose pallor and bad attitude have earned her the nickname Morticia, Maria knows that her love of music — which takes her “to mountains and lush islands and most of all great, teeming cities” — sets her apart from the other kids.

Enlarge This Image

Stephen Pickover
Matthew Gallaway

By Matthew Gallaway

372 pages. Crown Publishers.

Excerpt: ‘The Metropolis Case’ (December 27, 2010) Maria’s tendency to see almost psychedelic bursts of imagery when singing or listening to opera connects her with the other wounded and driven aesthetes in “The Metropolis Case,” who live as if there were a second, deeper reality, rich with sights and smells, underneath our waking life.

It’s to the credit of Matthew Gallaway’s enchanting, often funny first novel that it doesn’t require a corresponding degree of obsession from readers, but may leave them similarly transported: the book is so well written — there’s hardly a lazy sentence here — and filled with such memorable lead and supporting players that it quickly absorbs you into its worlds.

Plot is often an afterthought in this kind of character-based literary novel, and at times the story seems to meander and scatter pleasantly, but Mr. Gallaway brings things together quite neatly, even startlingly. By the book’s conclusion, the bland-seeming title makes far more sense, and you realize that the novel is actually, in its wily way, a mystery.

Like much contemporary narrative — for instance, the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu and some of David Mitchell’s novels — Mr. Gallaway’s book is told in several separate stories (in more or less contemporary New York and Pittsburgh, and in 19th-century Europe) that don’t seem to have any obvious way to overlap.

Chapters alternate among four main characters and are short enough to leave you wanting more. Martin is a 40-ish workaholic lawyer in New York whose musical commitments have shifted from the Modern Lovers and the Velvet Underground to Wagner. (He’s at some level a surrogate for the author: Mr. Gallaway attended New York University Law School and played guitar for the indie-rock band Saturnine; until 2009 he ran a blog called the Gay Recluse, which seems like a nickname Martin might have had to outrun.)

The other three characters are opera singers: Anna is a celebrated soprano living at the edge of Central Park; Maria is the frustrated kid in Pittsburgh who hates virtually everything except music; and Lucien, at the novel’s start, is the 9-year-old son of a botanist in 1840s Paris, whose promise as a vocalist leads a local aristocrat to take up his cause.

It would cheat the story to tell how these lives intersect. But as the novel goes on, the characters begin to encounter one another in literal and figurative ways. What they have in common, especially, is a relationship to Wagner’s love-and-death-obsessed 1865 opera, “Tristan und Isolde.” Martin calls its music “lush and restless and revolutionary,” a precursor not only to Freud and Einstein, but also to the Smiths.

“Tristan” — which is known for musical chromaticism and for a painfully stretched-out sense of longing — is also notorious for exhausting its musicians to the point of collapse and, in some cases, death. And this part of the “Tristan” legend will resonate as the novel goes on.

“The Metropolis Case” begins with a gesture that might suggest that it’s trendier or trickier than it turns out to be, with a long e-mail message from Martin, dated after the events of the novel.

The rest of the book’s opening act — like “Tristan,” the novel is divided into three parts — establishes its characters and, in the case of the two younger figures, Lucien and Maria, moves them from musical curiosity through schooling to careers in music. It’s not all sunny — the four main characters share a kind of bone-deep loneliness, and Martin is H.I.V. positive. (His status, thanks to medical advances, is treated almost incidentally.) But over all, these brisk early chapters show the characters taking charge of their destinies in a way that avoids clichés about fame.

By the end of the first section, New York has been attacked on Sept. 11. The second act is considerably darker, with various deaths and tragedies and disappointments. The third is more grievous yet, but also triumphant.

Because the novel is made up not of a single, continuing narrative but rather of vignettes built around its main characters, forward motion is not always discernible. Yet many of these fragments remain in memory after the book closes: Martin, on the verge of his 41st birthday, meeting an old school friend at a Midtown bistro; the rebellious Maria cursing out a nun in seventh grade; Anna captivated by a mysterious antiques dealer who gives her a document that will connect some of the book’s disparate strands. Lucien goes through the most serious transformation of all. Only a subplot involving an adopted cat feels forced.

This kind of interweaving structure can be showy, or simply confusing, in the wrong hands. And to keep the 19th-century passages from feeling alien, Mr. Gallaway at times renders the past in overly contemporary terms. But this book could not work its magic without such symmetry and architecture.

And while the novel’s characters and events are brought together by “Tristan und Isolde,” that’s slightly deceiving. The role of opera in the book is perhaps mostly a matter of tone: “The Metropolis Case” is driven by the same mix of exuberance and morbidity, fatalism and erotic energy. Like “Tristan,” it’s both tragic, at times, and full of sex, real and sublimated.

The novel will have extra resonance for lovers of Wagner, but it would be a shame if “The Metropolis Case” — which its publisher is promoting through classical music and drama organizations — were seen as just an opera book. For all its correspondences to “Tristan,” the novel is less tied to the world of sopranos and tenors than, say, the film “Black Swan” is tied to ballet.

Not everyone in these pages is an opera aficionado: “Well, let’s just say that anything’s better than opera,” Martin’s unsympathetic father says at one point. “All those nuts running around screaming their heads off really give me a headache.”

The relationship between art and life is a hoary theme, yet Mr. Gallaway breathes new life into it. And at a time when some of the old antagonism between fine arts and popular culture has melted away, this fresh rendering of a familiar motif could just as easily speak to an electronica D.J. or a hip-hopper. It makes you wonder what Mr. Gallaway, who manages to inhabit so many different worlds, real and otherwise, convincingly in fewer than 400 pages, will pull off next.

Scott Timberg writes about books, music and culture from Los Angeles. He blogs at

message 2: by AmandaLil (new)

AmandaLil (dandado86) Can't wait to read it!

Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB  | 7278 comments Mod
Any new books???? To promote??

back to top



unread topics | mark unread

Books mentioned in this topic

The Metropolis Case (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Matthew Gallaway (other topics)