Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Sheri Boggs


As someone who has worked with books (to a greater or lesser degree) for the past 13 years, sometimes I find it depressing to visit a bookstore and look at all the new fiction. Not because so much of it is bad, but rather because so much of it is good. How can one ever keep on top of the thousands of new titles published every year?


Which is why I'm so happy to have discovered Norman Lebrecht's The Song of Names, released this week in paperback after winning the UK's coveted Whitbread First Novel Award in hardcover. Lebrecht, a well-known music journalist by trade, is a writer's writer -- the kind of craftsman who clearly savors the language, tasting it and rolling it over the tongue before committing it to the page. His voice is channeled through the protagonist, Martin Simmonds -- an aging executive about to embark on an unlikely adventure. It's not hard to picture Anthony Hopkins in the imaginary motion picture adaptation, all quiet resignation and crisply truncated vowels. Martin is the sort of man who finds refuge in his normalcy, but whose memories veer uncomfortably close to the "clotted edge of irreparable loss." Despite such heavy territory, however, Martin is at times comically pretentious; his arch observations bring to mind a few of Roald Dahl's more hilariously adult phrasings in My Uncle Oswald.


The Song of Names is essentially a "where is he?" mystery -- Martin's adventure is a long overdue search for his childhood friend, the musical prodigy Dovidl Eli Rapoport. Dovidl and Martin are friends and musical peers from the moment Dovidl enters the Simmonds home (first as a guest and then as family when his own parents are lost in the Holocaust). But on the day of his official debut, Dovidl disappears without a trace. And now, more than 40 years later, Martin finally feels compelled to solve the mystery of what happened, even though it involves touching the raw nerve of his own ruined musical ambitions.


Lebrecht explores the darker recesses of genius and envy while navigating both his classical milieu and pre-war London with virtuosic certainty. If the book has any flaw, it might be that the backstory sections go on a bit long and belabor the obvious. But with Lebrecht's artful, ultimately compassionate voice as a guide, even these sections are fascinating to read. The Song of Names is a delightful new literary find.





Publication date: 02/05/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest
  • Seven Ways Drought is Impacting the Inland Northwest

    No, it's not as bad as in California, but drought is taking a hefty toll
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Call Mr. Yuk
  • Call Mr. Yuk

    Gov. Inslee avoids the "poison pill"; plus, pushing back against empty Kickstarter promises
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Moscow ArtWalk 2015

Moscow ArtWalk 2015 @ Downtown Moscow

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Sheri Boggs

  • Beer and Branding in PDX

    • Sep 15, 2005
  • Pictures of an Expedition

    First things first. Author Claire Rudolf Murphy has it on good authority that "Sacajawea" is pronounced the way we've always done it here in the Inland Northwest. Soft "j" sound, accents on the first and fourth syllables. Of course now, his
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • Hick Chicks' Slick Picks

    If you were to ask the Farm Chicks (aka Teri Edwards and Serena Thompson) what the sweet smell of success might smell like, they'd probably answer, in unison, "Peony." The two friends, who'd previously made a name for themselves with their
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Rushing's Rant

    The Airway Heights City Council has asked the mayor to resign after posting a racist Facebook message
    • Jul 15, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation