Max Randal, a pianist of the caliber of Rubenstein is now 32 and preparing a come-back tour. A child prodigy, his pursuit of wine and women and a bit of a professional burn-out has gotten him to where he is now. Alone, nervous, and stuck. His first wife is dying, his second wife wants to get back together, and the mother of his only child is leaving their young daughter with him for the summer as he tries to prepare for his tour.
I think this book is mostly a tale of past relationships, deiscipline, and the passion in life aside from romantic love. Though the author has a hard time refraining from including the fantastic in his novels (in this case a just discovered never before heard Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody), he sure weaves a magnificent story.
Sometimes very technical (I actually jotted down some great practicing advice), Max talks through the work of preparing for a recital..... the memory, the nuance of playing, the mind games involved in keeping a repetoire in one's head and the pain of repetitive motion. Other reviews have called the writing pretentious (I found it right on, and actually quite enjoyable to read), the plot improbable (it is fiction, right?), and the characters flat. However, I enjoyed it. Being a pianist myself though, I cannot really recommend it to anyone else because they just might find it flat and pretentious!
In other news: Researchers are working on the development of artificial livers from stem cells of umbilical cord blood (so drink up!); the Cleveland Public Library, Harvard Law School, and Brown University all have books clad in skin stripped from executed criminals or from the poor (gah!); and Paris Hilton may face a three-month prison sentence for violating her probation by driving with a suspended license.