From Publishers Weekly
A cranky, curmudgeonly composer is the ostensible protagonist of this hilarious debut novel, a sendup of classical music conventions that begins when the obscure Simon Silber convinces his new biographer, first-person narrator Norman Fayreweather Jr. to elevate Silber's musical status by chronicling his career as if he were already famous. Fayreweather quickly discovers that his subject comes with a veritable armada of artistic personality quirks but, unfortunately, Silber's talent is basically a mirage. First-time novelist Miller plows through a wonderfully silly discography of Silber's output with Silber "composing" works based on transcribed notes from a neighbor's wind chimes, the notation pattern formed by crows perched on power lines and the tones generated by a Touch-Tone phone. The compulsive composer is also obsessed with what kind of musician gets to play his work, having restricted all his writing to the keyboard so that no one can misinterpret such unusual titles as "Sudden Noises from Inanimate Objects," "Digressions" and a work he "steals" from his equally squirrelly biographer called "Aphorisms." The catty give-and-take between biographer and subject offers plenty of over-the-top passages as Miller fires off one classical potshot after another, particularly when he delves into Silber's troubled relationship with his evil twin, Scooter. Miller pulls off the tricky conceit of having the discography double as the narrative line, although the construct gets pretty messy when he enters the chapters describing Silber's decline. There are also some clunkers in the barrage of humor, but given the high hit rate, classical music aficionados will find much to smile about in this diabolical parody-cum-satire. Author tour. (May 15)Forecast: The droll cover is a clever indication of this novel's iconoclastic humor, but it remains to be seen whether its audience will spread beyond the Bach and Beethoven crowd.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* As classical music lovers well know, the notes to multiple-CD sets can rival small-city phone directories in size; it often seems one has bought a book as well as a recording. Miller japes on that phenomenon by giving us the notes without the recording, and that is just the first joke at the expense of avant-garde classical music in this comic novel as thoroughly, unmaliciously wacky as anything since P. G. Wodehouse. Simon Silber, raised in isolation according to the program his wealthy father devised to make him the greatest pianist of his generation, hired Norman Fayrewether Jr. to write his official biography, portraying him in his fallback role as the greatest American composer. Norman, who at 37 has never resolved his own problems with frustrated ambition (stomping away from academic stardom, he was a surly library aide for 15 years; then his mother died, and he was let go because she had secretly funded his salary), obliged but also dug the dirt for a tell-all that, because it was unlikely to find a publisher (after all, who else ever heard of Silber?), devolved into these notes. Each "chapter" ostensibly annotates a Silber opus, and each immediately digresses to chronicle Silber's strangeness, Norman's counterstrangeness, and the further strangenesses of the nebbishes Norman encounters while researching Silber's idiotic life. Ray Olson
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