Monday, December 1, 2008

Nonfiction Monday

While I'm jumping on bandwagons, I think "Nonfiction Monday" might be an interesting one. For obvious reasons, I don't review books here, but I like the idea of blogging about topics in nonfiction--ideas and trends, that kind of thing.

First, I was really interested to read this review at Fuse #8 of Dark Fiddler, a new picture book bio of the great violinist Nicolo Paganini. It sounds like a brilliant book, but Betsy points out that, like many books that stand out, it's a challenge--"a difficult beauty, to say the least." She poses the question: "Where would you put it in your library? In a biography section, tall tales intact? In the fictional picture book section, despite the true subject matter and the fact that the majority of this book is true? It's a puzzlement." Indeed. I think the hallmark of quality in most kinds of art is a certain difficulty in categorization. I found this in practice when I tried to track down M.T. Anderson's picture book about Handel, Handel, Who Knew What He Liked. It was supposedly on the shelves in picture book fiction, but I never found it there and was only able to obtain it by request (no, I was lazy and didn't ask a librarian). When it finally did show up on my hold shelf, it proved worth the wait (hardly surprising). I've got Dark Fiddler on request, but I'll note where it's shelved.

Good things come in threes, right? So where is my next excellent picture book bio of a musician? Since I was once upon a time a French horn player, I do hope that it turns out to be a picture book bio of Ignaz Leutgeb, who was Mozart's favorite horn player in Vienna and to whom he dedicated many of his works for the instrument. One gets a sense that their friendship was a bit rowdy from the notes Mozart left for Leutgeb in the manuscripts: "Wolfgang Amadé Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and simpleton, at Vienna, March 27, 1783." He also wrote "helpful" and profane encouragement for Leutgeb in the margins of the scores in multicolored ink. Very little else is known about Mozart's friend (he did live with his cheese-monger uncle for a time, which lead some to believe that he was also a cheese maker by trade--a combination I find very appealing), so one could really go to town on his story, if need be.

In other nonfiction news, I've got an advance final copy of Sally M. Walker's latest, Written in Bone, in my hands now and it's great. Lerner is extremely proud of Sally's success, especially her Sibert Award for Secrets of a Civil War Submarine : Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley.