Book Review: The Secret Life of Glenn Gould

In Going Green, Uncategorized by Matty Byloos4 Comments

This Book Review Is Officially a Part of the Eco-Libris Campaign: 200 Bloggers, 200 Books, 56 Publishers And One Hour

More information on the campaign can be found here, or as it is excerpted below this review.

The Secret Life of Glenn Gould

The Secret Life of Glenn Gould

“Long after his death, Glenn Gould still lures new listeners to his piano, connecting with them on a haunting, personal level.” If you’ve ever heard his stunning renditions of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, then you know this to be true. There is something quite a ways beyond haunting in the interpretive abilities that this world-famous piano player had access to. And of course, perhaps beginning with his childhood, his was a strange genius.

Not a whole lot is really known about Glenn Gould the man, the lover, and supposedly, this book purports to be the undoing of this secrecy. From the beginnings of his relationship with his demanding mother, we learn only slightly more than we knew before, which wasn’t much. According to the author, Michael Clarkson, Gould was apparently inspired to a great degree by a string of relationships with women, which in the case of a socially private Gould, amounts to headline news. From Franny Batchen to Verna Sandercock to Cornelia Foss and others, Clarkson attempts to paint a vivid picture of what fans of the great pianist never knew of the rest of his life. But after a read-through, one is hard-pressed to say that the details are that lurid, or deep, or even terribly interesting. Of course he had relationships with women. Of course he participated in salons with other creative types. But what do we really come away with upon finishing the book? Well — don’t go into a read of this expecting a kind of tabloid-level unpacking, replete with luminously dirty details. They’re not in there. And they’re also not exactly what this reader was looking for, either. But in terms of my expectations, well — I just expected more, somehow.

“Of the eighteen books and nineteen documentaries by or about the most compelling virtuoso of the twentieth century, none have contained details about Gould’s many love affairs and how they affected his life, his music, and his filmmaking. Until now, biographers have tried to explain what came out of the music box, not the engine that drove it. The vault to his private life has remained locked since his untimely death in 1982 because of his obsessions with privacy and controlling his image, the loyalty of his carefully chosen friends and lovers, and the choice that biographers made to focus safely on his music and eccentricities.” This is straight from the publisher, mind you. The facts are true — many books and movies on the shelves, and not one of them discusses his private life in depth, specifically his love life. Some readers may pick up this book, and while it is satisfying in terms of a discussion of Gould, they may come away knowing that there is a reason why this aspect of the figure has remained as yet un-discussed in public quarters.

“The Secret Life of Glenn Gould will be the first true exposé of Gould, who until now has been assumed to be asexual, lonely, and egocentric, by examining his love and soul-mate relationships. His music was twelve-tonal and his documentaries “contrapuntal” — both were filled with overlapping voices — and so was his private life.”

More Information on the Eco-Libris Green Books Campaign

On Nov 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on eco-friendly paper to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases. Participation this year has doubled from 2009.

Green Books Campaign

On Wed., Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases. This year’s participation of both bloggers and books has doubled from the event’s inception last year.

The 200 books to be reviewed are in a variety of subjects including cooking, poetry, travel, green living, and history, and come from 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. that are participating in the Green Books Campaign. This diversified group of publishers includes both small and large presses who all print books on recycled and/or FSC-certified paper.


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  2. I was not aware that there were so many publishing companies that participated in green printing methods. I read a lot of books and novels, and I will be looking for this when making my next paper back choices. I know that an e-reader is a greener method, but a paper book is so comforting.

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