I recently had the opportunity to review The Soloist, by Steve Lopez for Armchair Interviews. I thought I'd share it with you.
Happy reading and Happy New Year!
By Steve Lopez
Berkley Publishing Group
Paperback, 289 pages, $15.00
The Soloist is the true story of gifted musician Nathaniel Ayers told by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. If you’re interested in classical music, especially the violin or cello, and love to read about the lives of musicians, then this touching, heart-warming book about the redeeming power of music is for you.
But the special thing about this story is that Nathaniel is not only homeless, but also mentally unstable. Lopez first encounters the musician in the infamous Skid Row, “a dumping ground for inmates released from a nearby county jail, and [a] place where sirens never stop screaming,” playing beautiful music on a tattered violin with only two strings. Thus begins their unusual bond and friendship as Lopez starts writing his newspaper columns about Nathaniel, garnering much attention from the public. Soon gifts begin to come in—violins, a cello, and even a piano.
The story offers two parallel journeys. On the one hand, we learn how Nathaniel began his life as a gifted musician, his admission to Juilliard, one of the toughest, most competitive music schools in the world, his breakdown and life on the streets. On the other hand, this is a journey of self discovery for our journalist narrator. By researching Nathaniel’s life and trying to help him, he learns about himself and human nature. This is a story of compassion, one that reminds us that there’s still goodness in this world. I mentioned that this book is about the redeeming power of music, but it’s also about the power of goodness and how it can change another person’s life.
Lopez’s style is engaging and witty, often combining keen observations about life with soft humor. His appreciation of music and this special musician comes through from his prose. He treats the sensitive subject of Schizophrenia with caution and respect.
The Soloist should definitely be in the shelf of every musician or anyone interested in music and/or mental illness.
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