Last week we had news of a new book of fiction based on the popular Del McCoury hit, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. Reading Mandolin Cafe this morning, we learned of another new novel with a bluegrass theme.
Valentine’s Fall is the latest offering from Canadian Cary Fagan, an award-winning author of children’s books, whose non-fiction writing and commentary also appears in a number of Canadian papers. He has authored a number of books for older readers as well, but this will be his first with a bluegrass twist.
The book, due October 1 from Cormorant Books, tells the story of Huddie Rosen, whose high school life is marred by the death of his best friend in a foolish stunt (Valentine’s Fall), and who discovers a love for bluegrass music when he moves from Toronto to live in Tennessee.
I would say that the author captures much of the spirit of the music in this brief passage from the book, inspired by hearing a recording of Bill Monroe playing Get Up John at the first Fincastle Bluegrass Festival in 1965:
“Monroe’s mandolin is backed only by Peter Rowan on guitar. His playing is very fast but not blistering, a cascade of vibrating rhythm, of changing doublestops and open drone strings, of the sound both delicate and rough that he could draw from his 1924 Gibson Lloyd Loar mandolin. He plays a series of variations, making the rhythm surge here, hang back there, suddenly thrashing his pick in successive downstrokes, touching the high harmonic note like a bell. It’s just the most alive, most human sound I have ever heard. You can feel the energy pouring from his hands into that small instrument. It’s as if he could go on for ever or might begin to falter, but he does neither, he makes the music rise like a wave, hold there, and then, in a touching anticlimax, quit. It would be like Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations or Pablo Casals’s Cello Suites if they had written what they were playing.
The thing about music is that you can trust it. It’s emotionally reliable. Playing or listening, it gives you what you need, when you need it. A lot of the time, that has seemed like enough to me. But it isn’t enough. That’s what I have sometimes failed to remember.”
Here’s a brief video synopsis of the story…