The characters in Racculia's novel attempt to understand the nature of musical talent and the ways in which it emerges or disappears to impact happiness. The following novels investigate the interaction of musical gifts and the pursuit of a fulfilled life:
Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay
Kalotay's first novel was about ballet and Russian history. Her second novel, Sight Reading, explores the relationships between a few classical musicians in New England. As each of the characters delves deeper into work as professionals, the perfection they attain with their instruments or conducting baton eludes them in real life. Despite their prowess in music, they realize that they are living their lives merely sight reading, a term that describes the process of playing a composition for the first time without preparation.
Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino; a young-adult novel
Just as voice prodigy Elvis Ruby believes the stars are aligned to launch him into super fame, he chokes. He wins a coveted spot to perform on a national singing show, but rather than proving his extreme talent, he forgets the words and runs from the stage in embarrassment. Now he must recede into the woods of New England to escape the paparazzi's penetrating questions and figure out a new course in life. He thinks working at his aunt's pancake house is the perfect place, until he meets Cecilia, the girl who always speaks her mind.
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Lucy's incredible piano talent makes her a sold-out solo artist around the world — and she's only 14. At 16, a tragedy causes her to leave her performances, talent, but most of all her love of music behind. When her 10-year-old brother Gus, the new focus for the family's dream of star piano playing, gets a new piano teacher, Lucy finds herself wanting to return to her keyboard. After her incredible performances and privilege as a solo artist, will she be able to learn how to rekindle her love for the piano for only herself?
The Loser by Thomas Bernhard
Bernhard's work has been to compared to Beckett and Dostoevsky, but this novel — told in a continuous paragraph — plumbs the depths of musical talent, ambition, and the pain of lacking both. The novel is narrated by the second of two fictional friends of piano virtuoso Glenn Gould. Both friends renounce their dreams of musical stardom in the face of Gould's pre-eminent talent. The first friend commits suicide, the second retreats to obscurity to write this narrative, attempting to understand the decisions each made as a result of Gould's musical genius.
This article was originally published in June 2014, and has been updated for the
June 2015 paperback release.
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