Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Long Players

Title:  Long Players:  A Love Story in Eighteen Songs
Author:  Peter Coviello
Publication Information:  Penguin Books. 2018. 272 pages.
ISBN:  0143132334 / 978-0143132332

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It must have been in the eighth or ninth song."

Favorite Quote:  "Songs are not guidebooks, any more than novels. They do not offer instruction in how to live a life - unless your life impressively more dramatic than my own. but they are for many of us where we encounter possibilities, inferences, angles of blossoming though, that for whatever reason come to be accessible to us in no other human way."

The subtitle of this book states that it is "a love story in eighteen songs." With that and the cassette tape on the cover, I expect the book to be about music or at least feature a lot of music. Combine that with the fact that this book is about a man writing about being blindsided by a divorce and his resulting alienation from all he thought was his life, including  his two stepdaughters. I now expect an emotional book about grief and recovery and the ability to music and songs to say what we are unable to sometimes find the words to say.

That I relate to. I am a listener - not maker - of music. I haven't had mix tapes in a long time, but I capture the same thought now through playlists. One to match every mood. I have songs that I return to time and again because they are the soundtrack of my life. This book so sounds like it is for me.

Unfortunately, in reading it, I find that I am not the reader for this book. The vision I had upon reading the description is not the vision I end with. This occurs for three reasons.

First, the book is based on grief and the devastation of an unexpected end to a relationship. Other books and other authors have written about grief arising from different sources. Typically, the book is the author's journey through grief leading to a growth, a change, and possibly a new beginning. In this book, sadly I do not see the evolution. It begins and end with that grief. Unfortunately, almost 300 pages of that after a while just sounds repetitive and self-pitying. I don't mean to undermine his experience or the extent of his sadness; I just don't need to read about it again and again. I want there to be an answer or a change or life beyond the sadness, but unfortunately, that never comes.

Second, for me, the writing style of the book is a challenge. The author is a professor of English and has the word range to prove it. I am all for literary style and an extensive vocabulary, but then again, I I do not need the reminder that the author is an English professor. Most times, for me, strong emotions - as his are - simply conveyed are powerful; they don't need the embellishment of vocabulary.

Third, despite its title and the cover art, the book seems only tangentially about music and its power to heal. Music here more triggers memories, but that is different from the restorative power of music. Perhaps, the music gets lost in the journal like, self-pitying tone of the book. Perhaps, it's just not there. Either way, having read it, I cannot recall any of the more than eighteen songs nor was I inspired to find and listen to the tracks.

I wish the author well in dealing with his grief. I hope that music does help as it does for so many.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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