BODY & SOUL by Frank Conroy

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Synopsis

As a boy, Claude Rawlings looks up through the grated window of his basement apartment to watch the world go by. Poor, lonely, supported by a taxi-driver mother whose eccentricities spin more and more out of control, he faces the terrible task of growing up on the margins of life, destined to be a spectator of that great world always hurrying out of reach. But there is an out-of-tune piano in the small apartment, and in unlocking the secrets of its keys, as if by magic, Claude discovers himself. He is a musical prodigy.

Body & Soul is the story of a young man whose life is transformed by a gift. The gift is not without price — the work is relentless, the teachers exacting — but the reward is a journey that takes him to the drawing rooms of the rich and powerful, private schools, a gilt-edged marriage, and Carnegie Hall. Claude moves through this life as if he were playing a difficult composition, swept up in its drama and tension, surprised by its grace notes. Music, here, becomes a character in its own right, equaled in strength only by the music of Frank Conroy's own unmistakable and true voice.

Bristling with character and invention, Body & Soul is Dickensian in its range and richness. This is a novel with all the emotional appeal and moral gravity of a classic bildungsroman, but with a tone as contemporary as a jazz riff—an unforgettable achievement by one of the great writers of our time.

 

About Frank Conroy

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FRANK CONROY is the director of the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist.
 
Published September 29, 1993 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 450 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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 From rags to riches—by way of musical genius—in this alluringly atmospheric first novel by Conroy of Stop-Time (1967) fame.

Jun 24 2010 | Read Full Review of BODY & SOUL

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