About a third of the way through the book I had convinced myself that I really didn’t need to keep this book. I’m still undecided; I loved parts about music intersecting with life, the grown up child prodigy teaching a young child prodigy. The back story of the trial for the murder of a Buddhist monk didn’t interest me. There are, however, some passages too wonderful to escape my journal.
[Reminiscent of Robert Greenberg’s Frame of Silence] This immediately made me think of the kind of silence I used to love, the instant before I would start a piece and the audience would quiet down to absolute stillness. I always held the bow over the strings for a few seconds too long, just to relish that incredible vacuum, when a hall filled with hundreds of people could become so quiet. No one ever, ever sneezed, coughed or budged until I offered release with the first note.
The whole subject of child prodigies fascinates me. So many prodigies seem very close to prodigals, not in the sense of extravagant waste, but in the sense of being far away, socially and metaphorically. During the time that I read The Soloist, I previewed the movie Hilary and Jackie (too dicey to recommend, although the music was gorgeous), about the life of the du Pré sisters, particularly the tormented and fragmented life of the cellist Jacqueline du Pré. This book and that movie both left me feeling sad: sad for the weight of great giftedness and sad for the lack of appropriate parenting of the children with such gifts.
I’ve always admired and respected Yo-Yo Ma, who has a short appearance in the second chapter of The Soloist. In contrast to most prodigies, Mr. Ma’s life seems very balanced. He is passionate about music, but his life evidences an integrity and wholeness that many performers lack.