Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Fiction of Real Life: Shostakovich’s Testimony

One of the most fascinating literary documents of 20th century music has to be the alleged memoirs of Dimitri Shostakovich, known as Testimony in English translation. The book has inspired intense debate since its publication in 1979 (when the USSR remained firmly in existence) with a reputation that has waxed and waned ever since. The story is simple: Solomon Volkov, then a young musicologist in Leningrad, befriended the great composer Dimitri Shostakovich. Over  period of time they became more intimately acquainted, and according to Volkov, Shostakovich began reluctantly revealing details of his private life and thoughts. Volkov recorded these in succeeding interviews, until Shostakovich became more loquacious, eventually writing out long passages himself. Volkov smuggled the manuscript out of the USSR with the promise not to publish them until after the composer’s death. Shostakovich died in 1976, and Volkov found eager interest in the West for the uncensored memoirs of a much-loved and much-persecuted Soviet composer. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Doodling On Your Drafts

A book is a precious object. Though mass-produced, each one is unique, with its own slight imperfections, all the more so if purchased used. What book lover hasn’t delighted in the unique smell of a book: the deep, husky smell of a used book, or the sharp, bright smell of a book straight off the press? Furthermore, books can be easily personalized by the reader: his or her name can be inscribed at the front, pages can be dog-eared or marked up, or they can become notepads, recording forgotten phone numbers and irrelevant doodles. They can be given to friends or passed down through the generations. To place books in a bookshelf is no different than placing original artwork in a frame. It’s meant to be admired and observed as well as read. Books are objects and adornments; they are some of the most original works of art.