review Music for Wartime 107



10 thoughts on “Music for Wartime

  1. says:

    I have already mentioned on GR probably a few too many times how I feel about short stories I am reluctant to read them am often happily surprised at how much I like some of them when I finally get round to reading them kick myself for being reluctant to read them and then want to read a novel by the author of the good short stories I have just read Which pretty much sums up my reaction to the stories in Music for Wartime Some of these stories are stunning and some are very good and some are ok but overall the collection was well worth reading Makkai is a great writer has a uirky sensibility and is surprisingly versatile in her use of characters settings and time frames I especially loved the title story told from the perspective of a young teenage boy whose parents immigrated from Roumania to the US in 1941 and who is driven to feel the losses his father suffered And I really liked The November Story which is told from the perspective of a woman who makes a reality tv show that is really uite far from reality Another favourite was Cross about a woman who returns home from being away for a few weeks to find a shrine to a dead motorcyclist on her front lawn And to emphasize how versatile Makkai's talent is I also really liked Couple of Lovers on a Red Background in which the narrator recounts her encounter with Bach who appeared in her apartment in New York a year or so after 911 surreal but worked really well There were a couple of stories that fell flat for me but I suppose that's the benefit of short stories they were uickly over and I was on to a better story And now that I've finished Makkai's stories I really want to read her two novels Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read advance copy


  2. says:

    second story The worst you ever feel A young violinist watching a master play after years in a Romanian prison is able to tell from the music what the man went through uite goodThird story November A reality show where the contestants are all artists of some kind All sent to an artist's colony to live together Every week has a theme and every week someone is eliminated A good look at the behind scene staging of these shows and how it can rub off into personal lives4th story The Miracle Years a drought ridden town and a dead elephant bring about a crisis of faith for the town minister Not a favorite6th story The Suitcase A man exchanges lives with another man in an unusual way with unusual results7th Peter Torrelli Falling apart Two young men both homosexuals meet in school One is a very good actor and become a Chicago star until suddenly his acting ability leaves him Chicago and Berghoffs how can this one missCouple of lovers on a red background After hearing noises in her piano for weeks the owner is surprised when a 10 inch Bach jumps out and runs onto her broom closetEverything we know bout the bomber a man who sets off a bomb is scrutinized from youth on Why did he do it seems to be the uestion?Painted Ocean Painted Ship A college professor who teaches Rhyme of the ancient mariner mistakenly shoots an albatross while visiting Australia with unforeseen circumstances A favoriteExposition Instead of leaving for a refugee camp and safety a young pianist stays to perform one last concertCross a woman cellist arrives home to find a tacky looking display with a cross in front of her treeI've posted a description of most of the stories in this fine collection All were immensely readable though Painted Ocean Painted Ship remains my favorite Truly wonderful stories allARC from publisher


  3. says:

    There are only two types of stories in this splendid collection Great ones And outstanding ones Truly there is not a clunker in the batchTypically in reviewing a short story collection I start out with my favorites But I’d be hard put to choose from among 17 stories including some short shorts inspired by Rebecca Makkai’s own colorful family history Among the most memorable for me “Couple of Lovers On A Red Background” which starts “I’ve been calling him Bach so far at least in my head but now that he’s started wearing my husband’s clothes and learned to work a coffeemaker I feel it’s time to call him Johann” Yes indeed THAT Johann Bach the 18th century German musician who is living in the piano of a young woman who gradually seduces him I’ll leave it right there so that others can discover the fun twistsThen there’s Painted Ship Painted Ocean; an assistant professor kills the proverbial albatross – literally – discovering to her dismay that she’s known all along that “one little thing gone wrong in her world could unravel absolutely everything else’ There’s also “The Miracle Years of Little Fork” – a naïve Reverend tries to be useful in a small town where an elephant keels over during the final circus performance and dies of heatstroke Like in Painted Ship Painted Ocean this one event starts a chain reaction eventually creating a crisis in faith The Reverend muses “This was the thing about a crack in faith he knew the way one small fissure could spread and crumble the whole thing into a pile of rocks”There is irreverence here flights of imagination an ample dose of intelligent wit and a marvel at how little things can uickly become big things or cause major insights In “The Worst You’ll Ever Feel” a young boy suddenly gains crystal clear insight about his dad’s flight to the US when a famous Romanian violinist plays a concert in their home after years of incarceration In “Good Saint Anthony Come Around” set at the height of the AIDS crisis one gay man reflects on another man who always had good fortune when “my only magic was in survival”To say I’m blown away with this collection is an understatement It’s the best short story collection I’ve read in uite some time – and I’ve read some good ones


  4. says:

    Review originally published at Learn This PhraseI read Rebecca Makkai's second novel The Hundred Year House last year and was really impressed This collection of short stories has only confirmed my faith in her talent although it's slightly patchy some of them are spectacularI'll start with 'The November Story' because I thought it was absolutely perfect It's about a woman who's working on the production team of a reality TV show something a bit like Big Brother except all the contestants are artists It's called Starving Artist She's instructed to fabricate a relationship between two of the participants with the aim of manipulating them into actually really falling in love; at the same time she's floundering in her own relationship with her girlfriend a maddeningly lazy and indecisive presence who's 'making a list of the pros and cons of our relationship' and with whom she can no longer find anything to talk about except her work Almost every sentence of this story is brilliant and everything in it works wonderfully Christine's work on the show her relationships with her colleagues the little snippets of her career history; the tiny vignettes of her home life with Beth their stilted conversations talking at cross purposes deciding to ignore each other or feeling like they are I've read it a couple of times since I finished the book and have a feeling I will keep returning to it forever 'The November Story' is everything a short story should be In 'Peter Torrelli Falling Apart' the titular character is a handsome brilliant actor who one day 'freezes' on stage and instantaneously loses all his acting ability confidence and belief in himself The narrator is a friend who sees Peter as his first love 'I never actually loved him but still listen believe me there's another kind of first love' He invites Peter to read at an event he's holding to celebrate a project in which writers have created short works to complement paintings and sculptures in a local museum It's hardly difficult to predict that this won't end well given the title of the story but there are still so many surprises in it so many unexpected details This is perhaps the greatest strength of Makkai's stories and the thing that binds them together since the plots and styles of each are so different from one another 'Cross' a cellist finds her driveway marred by a plastic cross which grows to become a plastic shrine commemorating the death of a teenage girl in a road accident; she battles to get it removed while trying to balance her disgust about it with the grief of the girl's family; meanwhile she starts a new relationship with an old friend and forms a uartet with him and two young musicians also benefits from this perfect use of detail Another couple of favourites were 'Good Saint Anthony Come Around' too much going on to describe uickly but it's basically about the relationship between two artists and 'The Museum of the Dearly Departed' a woman finds out her fiancé was having an affair with his ex wife a person she'd never known about when the two of them are killed in a gas leak at the latter's apartment building As the above shows it's incredibly difficult to summarise any of the stories in Music for Wartime in a single sentence since there's always than one thing going on They cross into so many genres that the collection is constantly surprising and fresh 'The Miracle Years of Little Fork' is full of scenes straight out of a uirky historical novel a travelling circus becomes stuck in a Arkansas town after one of their elephants dies there; the town is then besieged by drought flood and wind in turn while a young reverend tries to hold his 'flock' together 'The Briefcase' is one of those Kafkaesue political allegories with a nameless political prisoner escaping and assuming the identity of a professor whose briefcase and clothes he steals 'Couple of Lovers on a Red Background' perhaps the most talked about story from this collection at least from what I've seen so far no doubt because its premise is so ridiculous in isolation is a comic fantasy about a woman who finds Johann Sebastian Bach living in her piano and goes on to start a sexual relationship with him because she wants to be pregnant with the child of a genius The weakest link for me was Makkai's use of what seem to be personal anecdotes to bridge the gaps between the stories proper 'Other Brands of Poison' 'Acolyte' and 'A Bird in the House' all fit into this category They are presented as true stories that have gained the status of legends within Makkai's family indeed each is subtitled as a Legend and read like notes from the author a device that interrupts the flow of the longer stories and rather disturbs the magic I'm sure they'd be great as part of an autobiographical collection but here they just feel like they don't belong Some of the shortest stories here are comparatively weak too 'Everything We Know About the Bomber' for example feels like the product of an assignment you might be set in a creative writing class and comes off as amateurish when compared to the superior pieces Actually it just really kept making me think about that notorious Amanda Palmer poem And 'Suspension April 20 1984' I found uncharacteristically hard to follow But maybe these are personal uibbles than actual problems I've said before that I always struggle with really short stories and most of what gets called flash fiction; I find it hard to get anything out of them and maybe one day I will mature enough as a reader to start appreciating them but this wasn't the book to change my mindIf the 7 micro stories had been trimmed from this collection and it was just made up of the 10 longer stories the fully formed and rounded ones I'd probably have given it five stars Honestly I'm tempted to give it full marks simply because of how much I adored 'The November Story' I gained so much inspiration from it; it would have been worth reading the whole book just for that Needless to say I'll be eagerly awaitingscouring the internet for of Makkai's short fiction in future


  5. says:

    More than 4 stars not uite 45how about 425 stars?Full disclosure I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased reviewA reality show producer A cellist dealing with the presence of a growing shrine on her property A minister in a town plagued by weather related issues A college professor for whom nothing seems to be going right These are just a few of the characters in Rebecca Makkai's wonderful and intriguing new story collection Music for WartimeMakkai is a tremendously talented author; her first book The Borrower was among my favorite books of 2011 I found her storytelling ability dazzling particularly how she created such memorable characters That talent was in full bloom in Music for Wartime which juxtaposes a few stories with Holocaust related themes or characters with other stories chronicling not uite everyday human struggles and foiblesWhile not every story of the 17 in the collection worked for me I was moved and captivated by a large number of them My favorites included Cross in which a cellist must deal with a growing shrine to an accident victim that is on her property as well as her feelings about growing older; The Museum of the Dearly Departed which chronicles a woman's struggles to come to terms with the death of her fiancé among other revelations; Painted Ocean Painted Ship a story about how what we perceive isn't always accurate; Good Saint Anthony Come Around which chronicled the relationship between two artists as told by another member of their circle; The Miracle Years of Little Fork about a small town minister dealing with his town's struggles and his own emotional challenges; and The Worst You Ever Feel which told the story of a young boy captivated by a concert given by a famed Romanian violinist and the revelations the boy has about the lives of the violinist and his own fatherFor someone who didn't like to read short stories about 20 years ago I have been fortunate to come across some tremendously beautiful and memorable stories I'd definitely include some of the stories in Makkai's new collection among some of my favorites While the book as a whole isn't perfect it is still a fantastic example of her storytelling ability and you'll find yourself thinking about some of these characters long after you've finishedSee all of my reviews at


  6. says:

    Late to the party on this brilliant collection and new to this acclaimed author's writing Now I see what all the buzz is about I read her stories in awe knowing I will never be able to match her ability to conceive such layered rich stories Of the 17 stories in this book I only skimmed one of them I was entranced by the rest Makkai's prose is elouent and assured but never too dense Her dialog is spot on as are her observations of human nature how does one so young have this gift for knowing people so well? She moves effortlessly between historical stories to contemporary ones and this flash editor was thrilled to find some linked vignettesJust one of the many gorgeous passages Some people live their whole lives according to the laws of probability If there's a one in six thousand chance of getting hit by lightning they won't They won't win the lottery either Because someone like Chapman will Someone whose stars made strange and intricate patterns at the moment of his birthThe theme of war connects many of the stories especially WW II in Bulgaria Some of the details in her stories are autobiographical As Makkai seeks to understand her complex history the reader is witness to her intelligence and gift with words and story I will for sure read of her work Highly recommend to short story lovers


  7. says:

    475 stars A beautiful collection of short stories loosely tied together by themes of loss and sadness I'll be thinking about some of these stories for a long time


  8. says:

    I received a copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviewI read one of Makkai's novels The Borrower previously and I think I can say I enjoyed these short stories I liked the themes of music and war moving throughout them without the pressure to connect them otherwise Some of the stories are very short 2 3 pages while others are longerSome favorites The Worst You Ever Feel a little perspective shall we say from a nine fingered violinist Other Brands of Poison First Legend One of the very short stories with a family legend not to be forgotten The Briefcase about survival identity and love Couple of Lovers on a Red Background I'm not sure if Bach is actually living in her apartment or if she's crazy but it makes a good story especially if you think of grief as its own kind of wartime Painted Ocean Painted Ship the not so majestic fall from grace of a professor awkward and painful true to life Cross a new string uartet a lawn memoriam and all the stuff in between


  9. says:

    The best short story collections contain a paradox while short in print length they can contain material of such complexity and meatiness thus reuiring effort on the part of a reader than novels of same size Such is the case here Usually there is at least one story that makes the eyes roll the impatience accelerate but not here Several of the stories do have music as an element but they are handled in such a way as to demonstrate an insider's intense knowledge of the art form as well as the life that goes with it Most of the other stories are based in the arts even tangentially with again an insider's observations Hard to know which I'd choose as a favorite so I won't even try Interspersed between the longer stories are 2 3 page Legends family history that Makkai has included As this is the first of her books I've read I'm going to pick up her others


  10. says:

    Makkai is a fabulous writer and though I loved both of her novels this short story collection is my favorite book by her Obviously with any collection there will be stories that resonate than others but a couple of the stories rate among my favorite short stories ever There is so much skill and emotion in these stories that it's hard not to be both impressed and moved If you're looking for a great short story collection I highly recommend checking out Makkai's


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characters · eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ✓ Rebecca Makkai

Es returns with a highly anticipated collection bearing her signature mix of intelligence wit and heart A reality show producer manipulates two contestants into falling in love even as her own relationship falls apart Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall a young boy has a revelation about his father’s past when a renowned Romanian violinist plays a concert in their home When the prized elephant of a traveling circus keels over dead the small town minister tasked with burying its remains comes Late to the party on this brilliant collection and new to thi Pathfinder Chronicles intelligence wit and heart A reality show producer manipulates two contestants Velvet Submission (Club Velvet Ice, into falling Oil Painting in love even as her own relationship falls apart Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall a young boy has a revelation about his father’s past when a renowned Romanian violinist plays a concert Putins Russia in their home When the prized elephant of a traveling circus keels over dead the small town minister tasked with burying Seducida (Esclava victoriana, its remains comes Late to the party on this brilliant collection and new to thi

Free read Music for Wartime

Music for Wartime

Named a must read by the  Chicago Tribune O Magazine  BuzzFeed   The Huffington Post   Minneapolis Star Tribune  and  The L MagazineNamed one of the best short story collections of 2015 by Bookpage and Kansas City StarRebecca Makkai’s first two novels The Borrower and The Hundred Year House have established her as one of the freshest and most imaginative voices in fiction Now the award winning writer whose stories have appeared in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stori I have already mentioned on GR probably a few too many times Pathfinder Chronicles imaginative voices Velvet Submission (Club Velvet Ice, in fiction Now the award winning writer whose stories have appeared Oil Painting in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stori I have already mentioned on GR probably a few too many times

characters · eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ✓ Rebecca Makkai

To uestion his own faith In an unnamed country a composer records the folk songs of two women from a village on the brink of destruction These transporting deeply moving stories some inspired by her own family history amply demonstrate Makkai’s extraordinary range as a storyteller and confirm her as a master of the short story form “Richly imagined” Chicago Tribune   “Impressive” O The Oprah Magazine   “Engrossing” Minneapolis Star Tribune   “Inventive” W Magazine  475 stars A beautiful collection of short stories loosely tie