DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Harold Schonberg

Jun 4 2010

Welcome to ShareReads!

by ShareReads

This is a new weekly book discussion post on DCPLive, in which we’ll talk about the thing library staff and patrons love most—books! It is also one part of our Adult Summer Reading program for 2010, which started this week. You get credit in the program if you participate in ShareReads. For more information, click here.

ShareReads will appear on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it.  This person might also ask you a question or two about what you are reading, and then…

We now come to the most important part of ShareReads, which is you! The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it.  The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Sound easy? Well, here we go:

This week, I’ve been dipping into a collection of essays by a music critic named Harold C. Schonberg. Anyone remember him? He died a few years ago in 2003, and was best known for his work at the New York Times as chief music critic from 1960 to 1980. He continued to publish books and reviews after his retirement, including Facing the Music, which I’m now reading. This book collects reviews and articles from the 1960’s until 1980 (the book appeared in 1981).

The T.V. character J.R. Ewing used to be known as “the man you love to hate.” If a music critic filled that role for me in my teens and twenties, it was Mr. Schonberg. He earned my extreme disdain for his hypercritical stance against my musical idol, Leonard Bernstein. I also felt he was unprofessional for sometimes attributing his opinions anonymously to others to bolster his case. At times I found his writing pretentious, and he could be misleading. He sometimes made the most irresponsible claims about composers or musicians, some of whom were long dead, and couldn’t respond.

So why would I be revisiting him now? Good question! Well, it’s been a while since I’ve read his work. I’m older now, less fanatical in my devotion to LB, and less easily wound up by Schonberg’s sometimes provocative or highhanded prose. Revisiting the writing, there’s less of that than I remembered.  I’m also interested in some of his opinions about composers who are less appreciated, and many of these I now enjoy myself. I’m curious about his thoughts on older artists who have now faded from the public consciousness. I care less about the faults I used to find in his work (now I just laugh), and while I still may not always agree with him, there’s more room in my world now for opinions which contradict my own :-). Schonberg’s topics covered the gamut of the classical music world, and I wish I could provide you with an online sample. If you like saucy music writing, I recommend his work to you. Facing the Music is a pretty good place to start, as is The Lives of the Great Composers.

Has there ever been an author whose work pushed your buttons, for better or worse? Who and why? Come on, ‘fess up!

P.S. Your posts don’t have to be anywhere close to the length of this one. I’m just so excited about summer reading, and I got a bit carried away!