Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Five books inspired by Beethoven's Fifth

Matthew Guerrieri is a musician living in Massachusetts, and the author of The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination. At Publishers Weekly, he tagged "five novels, both famous and forgotten, that make Beethoven and/or his most recognizable piece a crucial character," including:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The history of a piece of music is inseparable from the history of its fans, so it's worth starting with Burgess's dystopian classic and its anti-hero, Alex, literature's most celebrated Beethoven-loving sociopath. In the book (unlike Kubrick's film adaptation), it's the Fifth that is used to torture/brainwash Alex into a semblance of conformity, and the psychological weaponization of Beethoven is what finally trips Alex's sense of morality: “It's a sin.” In an interview later in life, Burgess (a composer as well, and who wrote another novel, Napoleon Symphony, that he structurally modeled after Beethoven's Third) imagined that, after the conclusion of A Clockwork Orange, Alex had himself gone on to become a great composer. Read in that light, the book becomes a fantastically lurid portrait of the monstrosity of genius.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Clockwork Orange is among four books that changed Peter Twohig, Darren Shan's top ten books about outsiders for teenagers, Ian Rankin's six best books, and Laura Hird's literary top ten.

--Marshal Zeringue