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One Finger Too Many Hardcover – March 23, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 68 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (March 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375502939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375502934
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,725,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

A top-drawer interpreter of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, the pianist Alfred Brendel is famous for his restraint--this brilliant technician never lapses into Romantic fireworks. His first book of poetry evinces a similar modesty. Yet these brief verses, which have been effectively translated from the German by the author and Richard Stokes, also showcase a sneaky and surreal sense of humor. Like the artist he describes in one poem, Brendel is always on the lookout for the comic paradox: "When the dadaist looked into the mirror / he saw some fetching contradictions / himself and his opposite / tomfoolery and method."

Not surprisingly, many of the pieces evoke the world of classical music. The title poem asks us to imagine a pianist with a kind of utility finger, capable of clarifying a knotty passage or "beckoning a lady in the third row." Elsewhere Brendel compares the public ardor of concertizing to the more private one of sex, saddling his pianist with a truly formidable case of performance anxiety: "both reviled and spurred on by the public / painstakingly supervised by the author / who / on top of it all / has entrusted the lovers with the burden of dialogue." Still, the author's poetic interests extend considerably beyond the keyboard. One Finger Too Many is infused with a healthy dose of skepticism, and on several occasions Brendel applies the nightstick to organized religion:

And once again
the Lord of the Universe
recorded a day of good works
three religious wars launched
several tornadoes let loose
a new brand of pestilence devised
utopias planted into souls
countless children successfully harmed
a good reason
to grant oneself a moment's rest
True, a literary spitball like the above isn't about to shake the convictions of a true believer. But that's not the point. These poems are written to amuse, edify, and tickle the reader's sensibility--banging the pulpit is something that Brendel the poet (and Brendel the pianist) religiously avoids. --James Marcus

From Library Journal

Music lovers will be familiar with Brendel as a world-renowned pianist and recording artist. They may also be familiar with his essays and lectures on musical subjects, in which he has been known to ask, "Must Classical Music Be Entirely Serious?" and in which he lists "laughing" as his favorite occupation. He singles out the cartoons of Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, and Gary Larson as favorite minor muses, and so it is not surprising that this most recent foray into poetry is a winsome m?lange of unfettered whimsy and gnomic wit. Perhaps the flavor of this slender volume is best captured by a poem in which a Dadaist looks in the mirror to see "some fetching contradictions/ himself and his opposite," "tomfoolery and method," "sense within nonsense," "anarchy and poise," "Beethoven mustachioed, [and]...even little Jesus...with his tongue stuck out of course." One other stylistic contradiction perhaps should be mentioned: the sheer readable fun of these verses packaging powerful, if enigmatic, truths. Recommended for all public libraries.AThomas F. Merrill, Univ. of Delaware, Newark
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bob Johnson on December 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Wow! I expected this to be an entertaining book, but I was not prepared for it to be so amazing. These poems are delicate and ponderous yet precise. It really reveals a light and dark side to Alfred Brendel, famous eccentric concert pianist. This is a must for any fan of Brendel, and a must also for a lover of poetry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book contains a selection of Brendel's poems first published in German. They are hilarious in either language, and absolutely side splitting for musical people with an off-beat sense of humor. Whether you are still wondering who really killed Mozart, what happened when Brahms bit his finger or Cristo wrapped the Three Tenors - the expert reveals it all!
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