Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five top books inspired by Beethoven's Fifth

Matthew Guerrieri is a musician living in Massachusetts, and the author of The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination. At Publishers Weekly, he tagged "five novels, both famous and forgotten, that make Beethoven and/or his most recognizable piece a crucial character," including:
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

...Beethoven's Fifth only makes a cameo appearance in Ellison's novel, but it's a charged one. Literally: the electroshock apparatus that the unnamed protagonist finds himself strapped into warms up with a Beethovenian cadence—“three short and one long buzz, repeated again and again in varying volume”. And, in its own crackling, polystylistic rhythms, Invisible Man might be the most musical American novel ever written. Ellison too had a musical background, as both a jazz trumpeter and a serious student aspiring to the compositional heights of Beethoven and Wagner. His writing shows it, a tough and lyrical mix of dancing syncopations, brilliant arias, and deep harmonies. Now so often encountered in English classes or literature seminars, the novel has acquired some of the weighty baggage of greatness that the Fifth has been so long encumbered with; but, like the Fifth, if you can trick yourself into forgetting its canonic stature, Invisible Man still jabs with force and energy, an almost promiscuously dazzling performance.
Read about another entry on the list.

Invisible Man comes in second on the list of the 100 best last lines from novels; it appears among Bruna Lobato's ten must-read classics by African American authors, Peter Dimock's top ten books that rewrite history, five novels that explore the dark side in New York City, Peter Forbes's top ten books on color, Joyce Hackett's top ten musical novels, Sam Munson's six best stoner novels, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best nameless protagonists in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue