Many elements, though, are clear. The children of the late virtuoso pianist Alexander Petrov return. Sarah is married to Jack Weinstein, a composer, who was the focus of the earlier novel, and they have moved to Cleveland where he teaches at his alma mater, the Institute of Music there. After sixteen years the marriage is now troubled. Sarah's brother, Joseph, is visiting them for the week. Having recently reread Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" again, I couldn't resist writing a series of dramatic parties into the novel with the accompanying turbulent confrontations; also, my characters are not wholly unrelated to Myshkin, Rogoshin, and particularly Nastasya. Finally, characters from several of my other fictions were made to live in Cleveland, and in the new novel, they become significant - Rachel and Jacob Black, Tom Mubar, May and Robert Sinclair, Vladimir Kline, and Juliet and Sammy Weisberg. So "The Fall of the Berlin Wall" is, in part, a Cleveland novel.
There's plenty of music in the novel, as well. However, whereas the music in "Hungry Generations" became part of the experimental form of that novel, it's presented much more straightforwardly in the new work. Here's the opening:
Friday, November 24, 1989
It was the wind that made it worse. Twigs were carried in the air, and dead leaves flew by. On Thanksgiving yesterday, the black clouds of a huge arctic storm had dropped from the north like a giant descending on the city, a massive primordial force obliterating everything that was familiar, felling trees, and dropping a foot of snow on the Heights. And now this morning, the wind kept blowing more snow east into Cleveland Heights with its the hilly neighborhoods, the first foothills of the Appalachians. Its houses, built in the first decades of the twentieth century, were porous to the raging winds. The old double-glazed windows rattled violently. The storm blew wires down and pilot lights out, and with few exceptions, there was no heat or light for blocks on end.
When Jacob Black’s heater went out this morning, he descended the stairs to the darkened basement to inspect the pilot light. When he directed a flashlight into it, he saw there was no way he could relight it, for without electricity, the newly installed heater refused to start. So much refused to work in this old house – and in his shithole of a life, as well. A stream of unspoken obscenity-filled his mind as he trudged back up the stairs. Rachel and little Mikey waited at the top. When she heard what the situation was, she picked up the kitchen phone. It still worked, and she called Sarah and Jack, who lived up the block.
“Yes to both questions,” Jack answered. “We have electricity, and come on over. We’ll wait out the storm together. Sarah is still sleeping, but she’ll wake up soon.”
So they put on their heaviest winter coats, boots, hats, and gloves as the wind buffeted the windows and pressed in on the house. Rachel carried a packed purse, Jacob a valise with a shoulder strap, and four-year-old Mikey his favorite brown bear with its button eyes, in a plastic bag. Together they stepped onto the porch. The wind temporarily paralyzed them, and its bursting intermittent hum poured from the sky. It had begun yesterday on Thanksgiving and had not relented. Holding onto his son’s hand and gripping his wife’s arm, Jacob inched forward down the porch steps and into the blasting snow. In the driveway, their boots sank in the snow drifts. Small branches flew by, disintegrating in flight.
“I’ll carry you,” Joseph said and lifted the boy onto his shoulders.
“It’s so cold,” Mikey said.
“We’ll be there soon,” Rachel said.
They trudged slowly through the snow banks for half a block, could hardly see through the white-out of blowing snow, and finally came to the wooded, untamed lot edging Jack Weinstein’s property. Barely visible next to the lot was his big home on the corner with its snowy stairs and the inundated porch.
In the thick woods a few yards away, there seemed to be a partially buried, snow-covered deer or other animal, and Rachel stopped to stare at the curious sight. Jacob, with Mikey on his back, continued to Jack’s house and stairs.
She carefully stepped off the sidewalk, walked through snow to the frozen form, and began to reach toward it. She suddenly recognized the snow-encrusted naked woman, and she suppressed a scream.