Excerpt from Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Love Begins in Winter

Five Stories

by Simon Van Booy

Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy X
Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy
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    May 2009, 256 pages

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Excerpt
Love Begins in Winter


I wait in the shadows.

My cello is already on stage. It was carved in 1723 on a Sicilian hillside where the sea is very quiet. The strings vibrate when the bow is near, as though anticipating their lover.

My name is Bruno Bonnet. The curtain I stand behind is the color of a plum. The velvet is heavy. My life is on the other side. Sometimes I wish it would continue on without me.

The stage lights here in Quebec City are too bright. Stars of dust circle the scroll and the pegs as I am introduced in French-Canadian. The cello belonged to my grandfather who was accidentally killed in World War II.

My grandfather's kitchen chair is also on stage. I can only put weight on three legs. The wicker at the center of the seat is ripped. One day it's going to collapse. When the chair arrives at the concert hall a day or so before a performance, a frantic music director will call with bad news: 'my chair has been utterly ruined in transit.'

An eruption of applause and I take the stage.

Who are all these people?

One day I will play without my instrument. I will sit up straight and not move. I will close my eyes and imagine life taking place in the houses outside the concert hall: steaming pots stirred by women in slippers; teenagers in their rooms wearing headphones; somebody's son looking for his keys; a divorcee brushing her teeth as her cat stares; a family watching television—the youngest is asleep but will not remember his dream.

When I clasp my bow, the audience is suddenly very quiet.

I look out at their faces a moment before I begin.

So many people and yet not one single person who knows anything about me.

If only one of them recognized me, I could slip from the branches of my life, brush time from my clothes and begin the long journey across the fields to the place where I first disappeared. A boy leaning crookedly on a gate, waiting for his best friend to get up. The back wheel of Anna's bicycle still spinning.

For ten years as a professional cellist I have been raising the dead in concert halls across the world. The moment my bow makes contact with the strings—Anna's form appears. She is wearing the clothes from that day. I am twenty years older. But she is still a child. She flickers because she is made of light. She watches a few feet from my cello. She looks at me, but doesn't recognize who I am.

Tonight the concert hall is packed. By the end of the final movement I can sense her fading. Perhaps a single hand remains; a scoop of shoulder; a shimmering mane of hair.

But she is turning inward quickly now—quickly drifting from the living world.

Some concert performers turn their backs to the figures that float upon the stage; figures that move with the confusion of sleep, with the grace of unfurling smoke, figures conjured by guilt, love, regret, luck and happenstance. Some performers I've read about can't take their eyes off them. Some crack and fling themselves off bridges; others drink themselves into oblivion or stand in freezing rivers at midnight.

I think music is what language once aspired to be. Music allows us to face God on our own terms because it reaches beyond life.

I feel moments from the end now.

The muscles in my bowing arm tighten. The final notes are sonorous; I steady my bow like an oar held in a river; steering us all toward the bank of now and tomorrow and the day after that. Days ahead like open fields.

And night pools outside the concert hall. The city is still wet. The concert hall is glassed-in and overlooks a garden. Eyes of rain dot the windows and shiver with each breath of wind. Stars fill the sky then drop to flood the streets and the squares. When it rains, even the most insignificant puddle is a map of the universe.

When the performance ends I stand and raise my bow to the audience. I can hear things landing on the stage—flowers and small letters taped to the plastic.

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Excerpted from Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy. Copyright © 2009 by Simon Van Booy. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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