Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Romance on Three Legs

I have 30 minutes to kill.  I've decided not to ruin this 30 minutes by doing something productive.  Like clean the house, or clear out the junk mail or something like that.  This 30 minutes is blissful and I shall savor it by writing a book report.  Some might say that writing a book report can be considered productive, but don't tell me that, else it will ruin my zest for the book report.

Case in point: A few weeks ago we were at dinner with some friends. They started talking about Malcolm Gladwell's rule of 10,000 hours, and then I started to say that I liked his other book better.  They wanted to know the name of this other book.  I told them it was Tipping Point, but drew a blank on what the book was about.  "Please hold," said I, "I wrote a book report on it."

Now while I was pulling up this book report on the mePhone, Carol said "You did a book report on it?"  I said, "I do book reports on all the books I read."  She said, "Why?"  I returned with a, "No good reason."

And that, folks, is what fun is all about.  Doing something for no good reason.  And that's why I'm killing this 30 minutes with a book report.

A Romance on Three Legs: Glen Gould's Quest for the Perfect Piano
by Katie Hafner


This book, a selection from that fabulous Creative Nonfiction variety, is the story of legendary concert pianist Glenn Gould.  Gould was best known for his Bach interpretations and recordings.  He was an extremely particular character who had specific requirements.  After years of search, Gould found the perfect piano – A 7-foot Steinway known as CD 318, and the perfect piano technician – a legally blind Verne Edquist.

Gould, his CD 318, and the magic of Verne Edquist are the makings of this Three-Legged-Romance.

Get it?  A piano has three legs.  Gould's romance with the piano required three separate parts?  Him, the piano, the tech.  Hello threesome!  Do you see the metaphor and/or simile?  Clever, right?  Right.  Sadly that's kind of where the clever runs out with this one.

Gould is an interesting person. Steinway pianos have history and intrigue galore.  Edquist's rise from poverty and disability, to become the piano tech for the world's leading piano virtuoso, is a great story.  Those three things make the book fantastic.

I wasn't all that interested in the author's writing, however.  Seems most paragraphs were structured the same, and the display of events was just basic magazine editorial type stuff. (Not that I could do a better job, but you know.  I like to read what I like to read.)

Speaking of basic magazine editorial type stuff, you should get me started on Jon Krakauer.  That dude is the luckiest person alive.  Somehow he landed upon some meaty happenings, and somehow he managed to make those happenings into books that people would read.  I read a few.  And each time, I thought, "Man alive, Krakauer, (this was an especially particular sentiment for Into the Wild) you are so lucky that what you're writing about has substance.  Cause, like, the writing is boring."

Now back to our normally scheduled program, Romance on Three Legs.  Turn to any page in the book, and you'll find at least three paragraphs that are structured in a  dangling phrase, comma, another dangling phrase, comma, action phrase.  (I'm no expert of English, so someone?  Could you possibly let us all know what this type of sentence structure is actually called?  That'd be great.  Thanks.)

For example, to see what I mean, an example to introduce my example will be my next sentence, or you can simple read this sentence again.

For example, I just flipped to any page, and landed on page 70 and 71, which said:

"As the rim is curing and the wood is growing accustomed to its new shape, other parts are being built, including the soundboard, the acoustical centerpiece of the instrument."


"To Henry Z., in the business of piano making, craft came before science."


"Under normal circumstances, producing a Steinway concert grand like W 905 could take the better part of a year."

In effort to prove the blatant in-yer-faceness of this sentence structure, I'll flip to yet another random page, 146 and 147:

"As preternaturally gifted a musician as Gould was, he was still utterly dependent on the technician to keep 318 in top condition, which enabled him to fully achieve his distinct playing style."


"For their part, Eaton's and Steinway–especially Steinway–were only too happy to let Gould do whatever he wanted to the piano, for they had long since written it off as over the hill."


"Once the piano was exactly as Gould wanted it, the hiccups became so ubiquitous that when Gould recorded the Bach Inventions, a CBS sound engineer had to work overtime to splice out the majority of the stray notes."

See what I mean?  Those sentences are everywhere – I dare say more than half the book is written this way. I found it a touch distracting. Some people find this type of writing engaging, so I'm sure those people think this book flawless in presentation.  Books are like music in that way, it's all about what you like.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to personal taste.

Writing aside, A Romance on Three Legs is fascinating, and recommended.  Even gave it to Yahoo #1's piano teacher for Christmas.

Oh, and wouldn't you know, my 30 minutes are up.

p.s. Did you catch me ending with two of those dangler phrase, comma, dangler phrase, comma action phrase sentences? 


radracer said...

It seems that you are running low on comments these days, so I shall comment just to fill the void, not that I have anything useful or insightful.

Now for an admission that I hope doesn't disqualify me from Rabid Readership: I had a hard time with Krakauer. I took 'Into Thin Air' on an international flight, attempted it between Salt Lake City and Chicago, and found myself purchasing Harry Potter in O'Hare, and pretty well ignoring Krakauer for the rest of the trip.

dug said...

am i the only one who read your title, and now can't stop sing Queen's "Death on Two Legs" in my head?