The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Google eBook)
The scandal over modern music has not died down. While paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, shocking musical works from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring onward still send ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, the influence of modern music can be felt everywhere. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalist music has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward. Alex Ross, the brilliant music critic for The New Yorker, shines a bright light on this secret world, and shows how it has pervaded every corner of twentieth century life. The Rest Is Noise takes the reader inside the labyrinth of modern sound. It tells of maverick personalities who have resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with the purest beauty or battered them with the purest noise, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. Ross, in this sweeping and dramatic narrative, takes us from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. In the tradition of Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches and Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, the end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Unfortunately I did not enjoy The Lacuna nearly as much as some of Barbara Kingsolver's other novels. It took me over a month to read it, which is much longer than typical for me (even for a book of this length). For the first half or so, I just wasn't really into it. I didn't feel any strong desire to pick it up and keep reading. In the second half, I became more engaged but it was still somewhat slow reading. The novel tells the story of a man born in the early 1900s in the United States of Mexican and American parentage, who spends much of his youth in Mexican and eventually becomes employed by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and later by Leon Trotsky. Eventually he moves back to the US and becomes a writer, and the end of the novel takes place during the McCarthy era. The story is told in the form of the protagonist's personal journals and letters. At the beginning when he is young, the journals are all in a distant and third person voice, and I think this was part of why I didn't feel that engaged at the beginning. It didn't draw me in because it was so detached. Later when he is older his journals are more personal and it was easier to feel involved with the characters. Even though I did not find it the most engaging book ever, I can appreciate that it is impeccably written. Kingsolver is a clear master of words and plot. She writes in a variety of convincing styles and tones and the plot is well-constructed and has an excellent, poignant ending that it sad but not unbearably so. I enjoyed her use of language and humor, and did find myself laughing aloud many times as I read. This is a novel with a grand scope, much more along the lines of The Poisonwood Bible than Prodigal Summer, and I think it may be the case that I simply like her smaller-scoped works better. I am still glad I read it, and overall I do recommend it if it sounds at all interesting to you.
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
This is one of the most enjoyable novels I have read in a long time. At first I wasn't quite sure of it, because it is written as if it has been assembled from detailed diaries, with some details filled in by letters and newspaper clippings. At times the diaries' editor intrudes to explain gaps in the text or other aberrations, but as the story develops, this becomes more easily understood, and by the end it has coalesced in such a way as to make perfect sense. Unlike many novels that use these devices, the frame of the story serves it well and contributes significantly to the novel's ability to sustain the notes it strikes. I finished the book more than a week ago, but it still lingers with me, and that is a rare virtue. Many other reviewers will summarize the plot. Truthfully, I prefer to know only as much as is needed to propel me toward a book and no more, because the delight in any story comes in large measure from its surprises. I thought I had a handle on the basic pieces of this book before I started it, but luckily my imagination is less robust than is Barbara Kingsolver's. So instead of a plot summary, I provide a list of topics that help to make up some of the book's texture, and you can decide if that sounds intriguing or not: the 1930s through the 1950s, Mexico, cooking, Diego Rivera's murals, Frida Kahlo, oppressive governments, art, literature, American society during and after World War II, small-town life, the publication of popular fiction, the right of the individual, Leon Trotsky and the Bolsheviks, character assassination, ancient cultures of South America. There are many other items I could mention, but that would be enough to intrigue me. What I thought I knew about the book was that it had many Big Personalities and Big Events in it, but what I ended up loving about it was that these things were at more of a remove from the narrator than I at first expected. It is not a historical novel in the sense that it's about larger-than-life personalities and the fates that drive them. Those people do show up, but the main character, who might at times have claim to being larger-than-life divulges his observations, his thoughts, and his insecurities. He is rarely driven toward dramatic action, just as most of the world's population is not, but he has strong powers of observation. Part of his great charm is how well he bears witness to what he sees.