Bart Schneider’s new novel Beautiful Inez is about a troubled classical violinist and her affair with a younger woman. It should be of special interest to ALN readers–its treatment of music is knowledgeable, intricate, and intense. My review of the book appears in today’s Chicago Tribune; here’s a taste of what I say:
Inez’s implacable depression is this novel’s true subject, and Schneider turns out one of the least reductive literary representations of the malady I’ve encountered. He recognizes that a simple logic of cause and effect cannot satisfactorily account for a full-blown case of depression like the one that oppresses Inez. Hers has specific causes, to be sure, some of them acute. But, true to reality, no more can one or two of them be isolated and called determining than the string section can take primary credit for the impact of an orchestra concert. By the time we know her, Inez’s depression has hardened from a condition to be diagnosed into a fact to be assimilated. And there is–blackest irony–something symphonic about it.
…Schneider drew much of the new novel’s passionate, detailed–and hauntingly ambivalent–evocations of music from his father, a concert violinist with the San Francisco Symphony. If depression is this novel’s subject, music is the sine qua non in which it’s steeped. Entwined in some enigmatic alliance with madness, music confers great blessings and takes enormous tolls here. In the book’s amazing pivotal scene–Inez’s impromptu solo concert at a mental institution–the blessings and the tolls become indistinguishable.
Read the whole thing here.