Peter Goldsworthy

 

Maestro

 

This was the book that got me started on Goldsworthy, an author whose books Iíve had a turbulent relationship with. Hence my review of Wish, I think the only book in several hundred reviews that Iíve given a dual rating of B+/F. And while the love/hate thing is there, thereís been a pattern of steady decline in my praise, from the heights of this book and ĎLittle Deathsí, through to my decision to never read another Goldsworthy after the irredeemable Three Dog Night.

 

But, wow, Maestro.

 

I didnít relish it as I did on the first reading, nor did I find (as I have in many other second readings) unexpected pleasures as a different reader a decade or two on. In fact I remembered the events and even their order pretty clearly. Iím not exactly sure why Ė maybe I hadnít read a book like this before and it made a real impression on me. I suppose one thing that did hit me was how my emotional reaction to the sexual betrayal was much more muted this time around: I suppose I was expecting it, but thereís also years of wear on my zeal. I was perhaps more aware this time around of how the narratorís self-contempt permeates the story: youíre so clearly seeing the episodes from the perspective of an older self, often cringing at his youthful vanity or self-absorption. I suspect that was one of the things that really resonated with me on the first reading Ė maybe in my 20s I was much more aware of teen overconfidence leading to indiscretions I so wished I could relive. Thereís also the musical connection. As a long time player it was interesting having Goldsworthy kicking around that talent vs. genius thing, and I liked that he included a character like Paulís mum, who could thoroughly enjoy playing music well without the need to be one in a million.

 

It seems humility disappears from several authors that I enjoy less as they get older. They seem to slide from questioning and even laughing at themselves to only be able to see how other people are stupid (Lodge, Lively, maybe Elton, although he has more consistently been fuelled by condemning others Ė maybe itís a comedian thing: so many comedians base their shtick on saying why other people are stupid, especially soft targets (the sublimely overrated Tim Minchen the king in a hotly contested field) Ė itís so refreshing when you get one that can laugh at their own foibles and double standards).

 

But, yeah, Maestro. Itís a great book, well observed, it feels honest, constructed ably, paced well. Do yourself a favour etc.

 

October 2015

2nd reading