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Saturday, February 26, 2022

Darn Him Anyway

"In fifty years, or five hundred, or five thousand, music will still do to people what it does to us now."

Soon after finishing Utopia Avenue (2020) a few weeks back, David Mitchell joined Richard Powers on a short list of contemporary authors whose work I plan to follow indefinitely. Having now read three novels by each of them - all six in a little over two years - I can say without exaggeration my life has been enhanced by the gifts of these two modern-day masters.

"Time wins in the long run. Books turn to dust, negatives decay, records get worn out, civilizations burn. But as long as the art endures, a song or a view or a feeling someone once thought worth keeping is saved and stays shareable. Others can say 'I feel that too' ".  

As was the case after I finished The Overstory - Powers's 2018 Pulitzer prizewinner - trying to nail down what makes Utopia Avenue so special challenges my descriptive abilities. I do know the last novel I read that captured the topsy-turvy world of music as perceptively as Mitchell's panoramic opus was Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010). Both Mitchell and Egan are unabashed music fans. In Utopia Avenue Mitchell takes that passion up another level, using an inventive architecture - album titles for his three acts and songs as his chapter titles - to tell his captivating story with authentic characters that felt immediately familiar to this lifelong musician.   

"If a song plants an idea or a feeling in a mind, it has already changed the world."

If Utopia Avenue is ever made into a film, Steve Kloves is the perfect choice to both adapt the book into a screenplay and to direct the movie. The characters Kloves created for The Fabulous Baker Boys - still the best film I've ever seen about musicians - are of a piece with Dean Moss, Jasper de Zoet, and Elf Holloway, the three songwriters and main characters in Utopia Avenue. Several times while reading this exceptional novel, that terrific film jumped into my mind and that got me wondering. Is there anything beyond David Mitchell's grasp as a writer? Darn him anyway.


(As promised, here are the answers to closing questions from my 2/22/22 post: 1.) Room 222; 2.) A tutu; 3.) Desmond Tutu. BTW, did anybody notice what day of the week 2/22/22 occurred on?)

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