Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons

Random. Feb. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780812995985. $28. MEMOIR
Being a genius isn’t easy. For Denk, who was recognized as a piano prodigy at age six, his dedicated study of music was a source of happiness as well as a refuge from family difficulties, but it was also a cause of frustration, isolation from his peers, and endless rounds of tedious practice and struggling to absorb the lessons of his teachers and mentors—a combination that would continue throughout his life. Initially a short piece of the same title in the New Yorker, this expanded memoir plunges fully into the personal and professional delights and despairs of a life centered on learning and teaching music. In between Denk’s recounting of his personal history are chapters analyzing and ruminating on selected pieces of music (Bach’s Prelude in C Major; Chopin’s “Butterfly” étude) as illustrations of how melody, harmony, and rhythm build music that moves listeners emotionally.
VERDICT Already noted for his skillful writing on music, Denk proves equally adept at memoir. Anyone with an interest in music will find this an excellent read; those with a good grounding in classical music or with time to listen and reflect on the pieces Denk analyzes will find this book even more rewarding.
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