"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Schumann Fantasy

love (almost) conquers all . . .

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I read a lot and am not usually patient enough to read a book as long as Hanya Yanagihara’s book, “A Little Life”. However, I found myself being lulled by the ease with which the novel progressed – the voice and long paragraphs that were more “tell” than “show.”

I found myself engaged in the voyeuristic and suspenseful plot which unfolded slowly through the novel, interspersed with the painful present-day life of the central protagonist, “Jude” (a namesake of another tragic character, “Jude the Obscure.”) Noteworthy also was the tender (that’s the only word for it) depiction of love and loyalty between men as friends and then as lovers. That the book’s author is female and Japanese, writing almost primarily about men (there are few female characters that have any development) is a marvel to behold. I don’t know how many times the words “I’m sorry” were uttered in the novel but I’ll bet there were a lot.

Only an occasional false note in the book appeared to me because I am a musician and a pianist – and that was a description of Jude playing Schumann’s Fantasy on the piano during an episode in which he is upset. That’s an amazingly difficult piece and it was already a reach earlier in the book to believe that he could play Bach Partitas at one point, but the Schumann was too far a stretch for my imagination to follow.

The story is almost unbearably painful. And the ultimate impact on me after reading it was to realize that so many of us are damaged goods walking around under seemingly okay appearances. Sometimes the hurts that we suffered from those who were supposed to be caretakers was repulsive and unforgiveable (as in this novel) or merely “normal” (benign neglect, selfishness, carelessness.) But all of us, it seems, have hidden hurts we are ashamed of and which we tell no one about.

That being said, we can have more compassion for what we don’t know about others (and might never know) that accounts for behavior that we don’t understand from those we care about. This compassion can be intellectual and abstract to help leaven judgment we might otherwise feel – and hopefully might last longer than a little while. That’s a lot to take from reading a novel but there it is.

living large . . .


I’ve been noticing lately that the Universe’s messages to me have all been about not holding back and deciding to go full tilt in living my life everyday.

So what if Pope Francis is 78 years old with various age-related problems – his will and intentions during his U.S. visit have sent a strong message about values that all can benefit from and that are hard to ignore. “Be good to each other and do the right thing.”

Coming upon the New York Times review article about Sviastoslav Richter reminded readers of how probably unhappy as a person Richter was and reluctant to concertize in the U.S. in 1960. But just take a listen to his recordings (which I did last night) of Schumann’s Fantasy in C, Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude and Beethoven “Appassionata” sonata, third movement. He goes full tilt with a musical energy that can’t be ignored . . . and if you’re anything like me, it almost makes your hair stand on end!

I guess that’s what it’s all about: “appassionata” means passion – and just because we find ourselves older than we ever thought we would be, it doesn’t mean that we can avoid living our lives by being reticent nor making excuses for why we don’t do things more and better than we ever have before. Going for it as long as we can sounds pretty good to me.

In parallel, I have also rediscovered in the past weeks what has given me so much pleasure in my life, and am following these pursuits happily again. What else, really, is there to do? As Ruth Reichl said recently, “you should have as much fun as you can because you don’t know what’s coming down the road.”

Oh, and then there’s the “blood full moon eclipse” tonight too, not to be seen again until 2033, eighteen years from now. But right now, it’s more than enough to take just one day at a time, playing and listening to music, cherishing what we have and mostly, paying attention to it all, with many thanks.