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Lies : a diary, 1986-1999 (edition 2002)
by Ned Rorem
Lies: A Diary: 1986-1999 by Ned Rorem
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0306811065, Paperback)For 40 years, the diaries of Ned Rorem have been ideal bedtime reading for musicians. This first installment of the new century, covering 1986 to 1999, parades a few of Rorem's familiar themes: insomnia, self-contradictions, letters to the editor (some never sent, some never published), and, of course, notes on his own music (including an especially lovely commentary on the English Horn Concerto). There are some unexpected anecdotes as well, including one about dinner with Nancy Reagan, an appreciation of Frank O'Hara, and the chronicle of a long-running dispute with neighbor Itzhak Perlman's air conditioner (the air conditioner wins). Rorem appraises new music, slamming Boulez, Schnittke, and Bruce Springsteen (who share good company with Beethoven and Mother Teresa), but there is a sudden about-face on Rorem's former bête noire, Elliott Carter. This time, however, the tone is darker than before because death is all around. Rorem's parents, in separate wings of a nursing home, die within months of each other. And above all, the diary covers the long decline and death of partner Jim Holmes, who suffers from Crohn's disease, cancer, and HIV (he withholds his discovery that he's been carrying the virus from Rorem for several months).
The final third of the diary, when Holmes's pills alone are described as costing $15,000 a year, is achingly sad, but somehow, Rorem avers, "the purpose of a diary is to evade real life." He thinks that "nobody sings my songs anymore," so it is to be hoped that he was heartened by Susan Graham's sensational Rorem anthology released in 2000, as well as his 2001 Grammy nomination for "best contemporary classical composition" for the song cycle Evidence of Things Not Seen. Rorem's prose, as ever, is delightful and instantly recognizable as his alone: "there never was a Great Man in America, except maybe Martha Graham." --William R. Braun
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:01 -0400)
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