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"The Whisperer" is a very well-written, very engrossing, opening story. It was easy to live the events detailed across its pages -- and easy to become incensed and disgusted by the defeatism and disbelief of the doctor at its conclusion.
"The Fire" built upon my frustration by delivering a librarian dissatisfied with her incomplete, disconsolate life, who remains unfinished, incapable of more, by story's end. It left me with a very disturbing image of incompleteness, of a wasted life.
"The Cat" continued to play my emotions by being a very sweet and touching read. The extremely powerful prose of the first half of the tale read so smoothly and irresistibly, I felt as if I were read it, eyes closed, similar to a Garrison Keillor radio story only delivered in person. A lovely experience.
"The Waiting Room" is a series of vignettes, snippets in the lives of others seen through the eyes of another. While simultaneously damning our narrator, music and visions freed her. Not as touching as the previous tales, yet somehow offering something deeper.
"The Puzzle" read like a breeze, a swift, short, fresh breath, despite its length. It was an exploration of purpose and contentment...and the lack of faith.
"The Violinist"...Oh, so much painfulness here, so much unnecessary futility. So much 'what-could-be-if-only' -- and all of it, all of it!, sundered, stolen away.
"The Violin-Maker" is the longest, most thorough tale -- yet it left the most unanswered. I thought it led a certain way, only to be led another: nowhere and incomplete, leaving me cheated and disappointed.
(An unusual characteristic common to all the tales and one I am not sure I understand, is the forced formality of Mr./Mrs. preceding the first name of most all the characters. Nor am I clever enough to distinguish what, outside age possibly, precisely sets apart the very few who are not so painstakingly codified.)
Seven Touches of Music is a book about music and the hopes it creates, the futilities it delivers. It tells a melancholy tale. It is, perhaps, a glimpse into the reasons Beethoven slammed his head upon the piano and his fingers upon the keys. Filled with so much that is senseless, even pointless, it is a book of sadness which, often not, is the ingredient that makes literary possible. A thought voiced on page 96 offers possible explanation for it all: This at least gave a semblance of meaning to everything. And one could not live without some meaning, however illusory.
Yet this too is untrue. As a book of individual hope and short-sightedness coupled with universal ignorance and futility, it is ultimately depressing. It offers no escapism, no illusion; nothing but a slap in the face and a forced facing of reality rather than idealism, viewed via a fixated blindness rather than boundless vision. As an attempt at 'literary fantasy', it fails miserably, for there is little of the speculatively fantastical beyond its trappings. An often breathtakingly admirable attempt it most certainly is, but each story removes itself further and further from the realm of fiction until the whole is nothing more than a series of incomplete speculations upon the nature of music and what it triggers in the human psyche. Such speculations are more clinical analysis than exploratory contemplation; more fact-finding than fun-filled. Inspired it may be, but it is more about the fiction than the fantasy of speculation. Why is it that what is literary is so often so bleak? On a scale of 1-10, I shall grade Seven Touches of Music a 9.5 in terms of the quality of writing and storytelling, a 2.5 in terms of the speculative.
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