March 15, 2005

Attention Tom Wolfe Fans!

I am currently reading A Man In Full for the first time. An excellently cruel and horrifying story centered on the upper echelons of Atlanta society (with an agonizing secondary plot set in the East Bay near Oakland), it is much more polished and better developed than his more recent My Name Is Charlotte Simmons.

The primary reason I bring it up, though, is a curiously, well, clunky passage that caught my attention. At one point in the story, a subplot involving two of the characters brings them to a concert of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Wolfe's description of its performance of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony bears all the marks of an author who either doesn't know or doesn't give a damn about music. Maybe one can dismiss the sentiment as being simply that of Wolfe's unpleasant, Philistine characters, but it's difficult to do so - in the passage, the point of view of the narrative flips around among the two of them and the omniscient narrator, yet the lack of any real spark of musicality in the description of the performance remains constant. And what caps it off is Wolfe's inclusion of a reference to a piano in the performance of the piece. Last time I checked, there is no piano part in Beethoven's Sixth. (If nothing else, this also strikes me as an example of pretty sloppy editing.)

Now, I don't bring this up to snark about it. Rayther, I'm doing a little bit of blegging: I can't recall having read Wolfe deal with classical music in any other book or essay of his that I've read, either in his own voice or through one of his characters. (Radical Chic is about Lenny Bernstein, of course, but it centers on his hosting a cocktail party for the Black Panthers. It's been a long while since I read it, but I do not remember that music itself enters into the story.) If anybody out there does know of such material, I'd appreciate a yip. I'd like to compare the passages to see if I can find any pattern to them.

Posted by Robert at March 15, 2005 09:04 AM

The piano didn't bother me so much as the reference to the Sousaphones.

It would have been easy enough for an editor to say "a performance of Beethoven piano concertos including that Moonstruck one. You know. The sad one."

Posted by: The Colossus at March 15, 2005 09:55 AM

My favorite character is Roger T. White, II, nicknamed by his college classmates as "Roger Too White."

Posted by: LMC at March 15, 2005 10:10 AM

I've been through the novels and the essays (Pump House Gang, Mauve Gloves, Hooking Up, several other books) and I can't find any references to classical music. Maybe that's just his weak spot.

Posted by: D. Carter at March 15, 2005 03:51 PM
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