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Cast down the laurel by Arnold Gingrich
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Cast down the laurel

by Arnold Gingrich

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This novel, published in 1935, is really more interesting as an historical item than as a reading experience, at least for me. Gingrich was a famous editor in his day. He was the founder and first editor of Esquire, he was an intimate of the "moveable feast" crowd that included Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and he was, for a time, Hemingway's editor. Also, the format of this book is interesting, as well. The story centers around a concert pianist who has found fame and fortune for his performances, but quits and retreats to an Illinois suburb to start a music school because he cannot stand the difference between the perfection of the music he hears in his head and the flaws in his playing that constantly torture him, flaws that only he can hear. In the process, he becomes emotionally cold, intensely egotistical and a more or less constant drinker. The book begins with a series of "dossiers," basically character sketches, that an unknown narrator is providing for an unknown author to use to create a story from. Then we read the "romance," i.e. the altered story of these characters. In the third section of the book, the first narrator returns to upbraid the "author" for all the ways he got the stories wrong and then to provide the "real" way things were. It is all intended, I guess, to show us the ways in which the tortured artist who either loses faith in his own talents or considers himself too good for them can ruin not only himself but those around him. One suspects, perhaps, Fitzgerald as some sort of inspiration, here. But while the "romance" is engaging in parts, mostly the characters are unsympathetic and the message, at least from the perspective of the early 21st century, shopworn. So while, as I said, I found the book of interest for its historic aspects, it does not surprise me that it has become an obscure bit of history and that Gingrich is remembered as an editor and not as an author. ( )
1 vote rocketjk | May 25, 2013 |
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