A new novel of mine, The Ash Tree, has been published by West of West Books in conjunction with the April 24, 2015 centenary of the Armenian genocide; it recounts the lives of an Armenian-American family and the sweep of their history in the twentieth century - particularly from the points of view of two women in the family as it builds a new life in California.
There are three other novels of mine - one is Pathological States, about a physician's family in L.A. in 1962, which is as yet unpublished; another is Hungry Generations, about a young composer's friendship in L.A. with the family of a virtuoso pianist, published on demand by iUniverse; and Acts of Terror and Contrition - a nuclear fable - is my political novella (with eight stories) from Amazon's Createspace, about Israel and its reactions to the first Iraq War in 1990 (with the fear then that Saddam Hussein's missile bombardment might contain a nuclear weapon).
From a review of "Acts" on Amazon.com:
"At times the reader races ahead to find out the fate of the cast of characters and the fate of nations. At others the reader is stopped mid-page to consider the paradoxes of the nuclear world and the world of realpolitik. This is an important, timely book that deserves a wide audience."
For a fuller description of them, look for the relevant blog posts below or click on one of the Amazon.com links. KINDLE editions of these novels are also available.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Beethoven xviii: more evidence of an obsession with the composer

A dream from the sixties: a drunken meal around a table, with plentiful wine and many plates of savory food. Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, sits next to me, whispering; in the 1930s the troubled girl had fallen in love, unbidden, with Joyce’s friend Samuel Beckett, who is somewhere there roving about the room of my dream. Friends sit across from me, and at the end of the table is my great late teacher Thomas Flanagan, telling a story – sharp-edged, wry and witty.

At the head of the table sits Joyce himself, pivoting in his chair towards a piano conveniently placed by him, and he is playing away right through all the talk and clatter, the vodka toasts, Flanagan’s story and the laughter of its reception. Joyce plays no opera or Irish song: he is playing Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata.

Suddenly Lucia turns to me, puts her hand on my knee, and whispers – almost mouthing the words: “Do you love me?” I soon awoke into my 1965 life, but not before I felt the full force of her searching glance, her yearning words, and her delusion.

The dream has continued to reverberate in my imagination for almost a half century. In 1970, I wrote a story about a piano virtuoso, and the story continued to grow until 1990 when it became my novel Hungry Generations. The painting on its cover (based on Matisse’s “The Music Lesson”) shows the virtuoso playing the piano with his family sitting about and his new friend, a young composer, standing and listening. Beethoven is everywhere present – his picture on the wall, a volume of the sonatas on the piano lid, and the filigreed opening notes of his Hammerklavier atop the picture.

There exists a wonderful photograph of Joyce playing the piano with his son Giorgio listening as he leans over the closed lid. There is a painting on the cover of my study of music and modern fiction, Fullness of Dissonance (which was written in the eighties and published in 1994), and it is based on the photograph. The painting shows Joyce at the piano with not Giorgio, but Mann, Proust, and Schoenberg standing by the closed lid, listening.

The obsession – with a life of its own – does not stop. This is my seventeenth post about Beethoven, and of course several concern the Hammerklavier.

[Both of these cover paintings – visible in the right column of this blog – are by Jeanette Arax Melnick, my wife.]

I’d thought of writing about Tia DeNora’s 1995 study of how Beethoven’s aristocratic Viennese patrons early on helped to support and, in important ways, to shape the growth of Beethoven’s genius – its title is “Beethoven and the Construction of Genius.” But somehow I’d like to use more of these posts to explore why I love Beethoven – and so: my dream from the 1960s.

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