Sunday, April 27, 2008

I loved this book. The movie stank.

This past Spring (2008) I caught an interview with the author of this book on a Philadelphia NPR station, and KNEW I had to read the book.

"The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music" by Steve Lopez
This is a musician's book. Any musician or lover of classical music will treasure it. I know I did.

It's about Nathaniel Ayers, a promising musician who went mad (paranoid schitzophrenia) while at Juilliard (on a full scholarship, no less), and ended up on the Los Angeles streets, playing a 2-string violin in the shadow of a statue of Beethoven. It was noted that one of his Juilliard string bass teachers, Gary Karr, was one of the first people who recognized what was happening to Ayers.

I used to play bass myself, and had met Gary Karr, so I felt connected to this story. It often brought tears to my eyes. I ordered the book as soon as I learned about it. A high-budget movie is in production and scheduled to be released in April 2009.

May 1. The book has arrived, and I've gone through 6 chapters. It's very moving. I usually read books very quickly, but not this one.

May 3. I finished the book in four sittings. There were times I got very emotional. The thought of perfect strangers giving violins, cellos and even a piano to a homeless street person with such serious mental issues was heartwarming, to say the least. Lopez spent 2 years with the man, working small miracles, inches at a time. The book ends. Not a happy ending, not a sad ending. It just... ends, and we all know it continues past the last page.

I await the movie. Mind you, I don't LIKE movies, and seldom go. THIS one, I'll see.

April 27, 2009. Well, I saw the movie. If you've read the book, you can skip the flick. It doesn't come close. In a word, the movie stinks.

Better yet, just go read the damn book. it is POWERFUL.

Read a more detailed book review here.

Please leave a comment if you've read this book.

Note 5/11: It's now 24th on the NY Times Best Seller list (nonfiction, hard cover)

Note: 3/22/09: 60 Minutes just ran a segment on Ayres/Lopez. You can read Steve Lopez's L.A. Times articles here .