S4L Book Club – Bel Canto

S4L Book Club - Bel CantoSpeaking of music and wanting or expecting it in this book, what is “lyrical prose”? Can you give some examples of what you find lyrical?

And while we’re at it, I’d like us to start keeping track of Lines We Love in the books we read so we can collect and share them as part of our discussions. I know I came across one in my reading, but I failed to mark it, and I’m at a loss now. Are there any that you recall, even if you can’t quote them?

Categories: Reading

8 replies »

  1. Goody, goody gumdrops! I love today’s questions.

    Lyrical prose…writing that sings to me. My very best example is the writing of Richard Llewellyn in How Green Was My Valley. The Welsh manner of speaking (at least during that time period) is, in and of itself, poetic. I know you’re not surprised that I would mention this book in this context. Never before has another book made me stop and reread multiple times what the author has written, merely for the pure joy of the sound of the words. Over and over again. (A sad aside–I’ve read several other books by Llewellyn and not one has come even close to the mastery of his first. They were disappointments to me, every one.)

    Lines We Love (I’ve taken to gently dog earring the pages I find them on. Then, after I’ve entered the lines into my Notable Quotes file, I gently unfold and flatten the pages. What good is a book if it isn’t well-loved? But I might start using tiny post-it notes to mark my faves.) I found three in this book. Maybe one of them is yours, Jen. Oh, by the way…sometimes my Notable Quotes are lyrical, but often they are merely turns of phrase that strike me, for various reasons, as noteworthy or giving me pause.

    1)This was during the initial siege by the terrorists: “There were now an additional eighteen people at the party. No one there could count them at the time. They moved and spread. They doubled and tripled as they pulsed around the room, appeared from behind curtains, came down from upstairs, disappeared into the kitchen. They were impossible to count because they seemed to be everywhere, because they were so similar, like trying to count bees in a swarm around your head.” It’s the very last phrase that I like the most, because it made me see the scene exactly.

    2) Speaking of Roxane’s beauty: “Even those who saw her for the first time, before she had opened her mouth to sing, found her radiant, as if her talent could not be contained in her voice and so poured like light through her skin.”

    3) Speaking of the room where the chess games were played: “The room had the same effect on the spectators as long liturgical services, algebra lectures, Halcion.” Can’t you just see the tiny, innumerable particles of boredom floating through the air? That line made me chuckle.

  2. “The quality of the gift is a result of the giving persons sincerity and that the gift is something the receiver needs”
    Npn 123 (Roxanne get a handkerchief, a note book and a pencil from Hosokawa)

  3. This book does not sing to me. I do not find so much musicality in the writing as I should expect because of the opera–Arie–metaphor.

    Maybe I find a book that I can mention later?

  4. Arggh! I just deleted a long post!
    Shelly, I agree with your delight in the language of How Green Was My Valley. I also find Amy Tan’s writing to be lyrical with words that paint pictures. Another book that struck me with it’s glorious use of words was Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. It is a book I first listened to (at Jen’s recommendation) and then read so that I could reread and experience individual passages.

    I, too recall the first two of Shelly’s quotes, and really enjoyed them. The third quote, I didn’t specifically recall, but I do remember thinking the scene was well drawn. By the way, “tiny, innumerable particle of boredom floating through the air” is pretty lyrical.

    I listened to the book and this makes finding specific quotes impractical, if not actually impossible. I do recall an unexpected pleasure in the story the Russian relayed to Roxane in the course of declaring his love. The reverent description of the book and his grandmother’s care and love for it was wonderful.

  5. Harriet, you posted while I was composing, so I hadn’t read your comments. I really liked that quote. I didn’t find this book lyrical- which I had expected- but I did think it had some really fine moments.

  6. Becca beat me to my thought! Shelly’s “tiny, innumerable particles of boredom floating through the air” beats much of the very straightforward description in the book.

    If Shelly’s second Lines We Love example isn’t the one I picked out while reading, I’m willing to claim it is now. I like that one.

    I, too, expected lyrical here and was disappointed. But this poor book is sandwiched between Barbara Kingsolver and a new Alaskan author that I’m excited to discover; both authors sing to me.

    I love lyrical language, but sometimes there’s a fine line between beautiful and awkward. The push for fresh language and imagery is too great sometimes and results in similes and metaphors so strange that they call attention to themselves. I’m stopped in my reading tracks as I puzzle over the odd image, trying to make it fit, and finding it doesn’t.

    While I didn’t find the language in Bel Canto lyrical, I haven’t decided whether there might be other aspects of the book that are. I have another question farther down on the list that addresses this.

  7. Since several of us seemed to expect “lyrical” from this book and didn’t feel we got it, do you think the title of the book was a poor choice? Can you recommend another one?

    Wait…is this another question? 🙂

  8. Looks like I’m the odd man out here. Even with the title of Bel Canto, I wasn’t expecting lyrical prose. The power of music was throughout the book…it was the saving grace of their days, hostage and terrorist alike. For me, that fit the title of the book. I never felt as though the writing was lacking because it, itself, wasn’t lyrical. It never occurred to me that it should be or was expected to be. (Please keep in mind…I’m quite often guilty of not noticing things that are obvious to others. On the flipside, I do notice quirky things that others often don’t. I’m not quite sure why that is.)