fiction

"I had a friend who could not sleep,

and he knew a few other people who had the same trouble, and we would watch the sky lighten and have a last drink with no ice and then go home in the early morning light, when the streets were clean and wet (had it rained in the night? we never knew) and the few cruising taxis still had their headlights on and the only color was the red and green of traffic signals. The White Rose bars opened very early in the morning; I recall waiting in one of them to watch an astronaut go into space, waiting so long that at the moment it actually happened I had my eyes not on the television screen but on a cockroach on the tile floor.”

- Joan Didion, from “Goodbye to All That”

Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Berlioz, Bizet, Rimsky-

Korsakov, Debussy, Bartok, Hindemith, Schonberg, Szymanowski, hundreds of composers throughout all of Europe. Over all of Europe the wind of alterity blows, all these great men use what comes to them from the Other to modify the Self, to bastardize it, for genius wants bastardy, the use of external procedures to undermine the dictatorship of the church chant and harmony, why am I getting worked up all alone on my pillow now, probably because I'm a poor unsuccessful academic with a revolutionary thesis no one cares about. Today no one is interested anymore in Felicien David who became extraordinarily famous on December 8, 1844 after the premiere of Le Desert at the Paris Conservatoire, an ode-symphony in three parts for narrator, solo tenor, male chorus, and orchestra, based on the composer's memories of his journey to the Orient, between Cairo and Beirut...The Desert invades Paris--"by unanimous opinion, it was the most beautiful storm music had every produced, no maestro had ever gone so far," Theophile Gautier writes in La Presse, describing the storm assailing the caravan in the desert; it's also the premier of the "Danse des almees," the Dance of the Almahs, an erotic motif whose subsequent fortune we know, and surprise of surprises, the first "Chant du muezzin," the first Muslim call to prayer that ever sounded in Paris." 

- Mathias Enard, from Compass

Many years later, when everything was business,

when he worked harder than anyone in a country whose values are structured on hard work, he believed that life, true life, was something that was stored in music. True life was kept safe in the lines of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin while you went out into the world and met the obligations required of you. Certainly he knew (though did not completely understand) that opera wasn't for everyone, but for everyone he hoped there was something. The records he cherished, the rare opportunities to see a live performance, those were the marks by which he gauged his ability to love. Not his wife, his daughters, or his work. He never thought that he had somehow transferred what should have filled his daily life into opera. Instead he knew that without opera, this part of himself would have vanished altogether. 

- Ann  Patchett, from bel canto