Mark Salzman is the author of Iron & Silk, an account of his two years in China; Lost in Place, a memoir; and the novels The Laughing Sutra, The Soloist, and Lying Awake.
This illuminating novel by the author of Iron and Silk ( LJ 2/1/87) probes the inner life of Reinhart (Renne) Sundheimer, a former boy-wonder cellist who gave up performing in his late teens and now, as a 36-year-old academic, considers himself a has-been. His quiet life changes drastically when he is selected as a juror in the Los Angeles County murder trial of a student accused of killing a Buddhist monk. During the trial, the virginal Renne stumbles into a romantic entanglement; he also agrees to teach a six-year-old Korean boy who may be a prodigy. A perfectionist who owns a blender selected for its F-sharp pitch, Renne is ripe for metamorphosis. Suspense builds inside and out as the trial progresses. The mesmerizing first-person narration reveals Renne's self-tortured character, keen intelligence, and troubled heart as he ponders classical music, human nature, astronomy, and sanity/insanity. A spiritual journey not to be missed. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston
YA-The difficulties encountered by ``gifted and talented'' children are dispassionately chronicled in this unusual story about a musical prodigy who as an adult must come to terms with his own mediocrity. When Reinhart Sundheimer's gift as a world-renowned cellist suddenly and inexplicably deserts him at age 18, he is bereft, for he knows no other life than that of the concert stage and is accustomed to adulation. As a college professor who has never learned social skills, he is aloof from his colleagues and spends his spare time practicing in the vain hope that his gift will return. Then, in one event-filled week, the outside world invades his insular environment. First, he is called to jury duty and, second, he agrees to give cello lessons to a 12-year-old prodigy. Interacting with other jurors during deliberations on a brutal murder case and reacting to the unpredictability of his student and the student's Korean family require emotional resources that he never knew he possessed. Both experiences result in personal insight that allows him to accept his limitations as a musician and gives him courage to broaden his horizons as a man. YAs are sure to empathize with the troubled protagonist.-Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Salzman's ( Iron and Silk ) new novel is a quirky and enjoyable tale of finding Nirvana in the legal system. Renne Sundheimer is a 34-year-old failure. As a cello prodigy he toured Europe and was lavished with ardent praise. But something went horribly wrong with Renne's hearing, distorting every note he played. Driven from the stage by his handicap, Renne fell to teaching cello at UCLA. Sixteen years later, two events lift him out of his rut: he accepts a nine-year-old Korean prodigy as his student, and is selected for jury duty. The case he is assigned to is the murder of a Buddhist Zen master by a troubled acolyte. At a week-long retreat, the young monk had been assigned a koan (a spiritual riddle) that he ``solved'' by murdering his teacher. Both the acolyte's trial and his new pupil recall aspects of Renne's own unfinished relationship with his childhood music teacher and with his own incomplete maturation. Just as you begin to suspect that the novel will end inconclusively, Salzman winds the story down subtly. Looking back on the trial and his life, Renne manages to solve the riddle that the young monk had so brutally misconstrued. Author tour. (Jan.)