Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Librettos of Daydreams

Certain novels astonish me by their popularity.They are set in times and places not so remote as to be unknown, yet the features don't match up. The local color and details belong to some other place, or belong  nowhere. Nor do plotting or sentiment compensate. Both tend to be predictable; the latter is meant to be sweet but cloys. Reasoned arguments do not affect their fans--try giving such a book a one-star review on Amazon, and await the replies.

It has occurred to me that I have been mistaken in taking these books as a finished product: they are the librettos of daydreams.

The libretto for an opera, read in silence, is dull, even if da Ponte has worked from Beaumarchais's play. The lyrics tend to be not much more than serviceable, the plots run to farce and melodrama. Could you sit through The Magic Flute or Rigoletto without the music? Yet when the contralto gets going, I don't care that she is a woman playing a boy, who will presently play a woman. When the countess and Susanna get going, I don't really care about anything else at all.

I believe that readers who keep (say) The Royal Nonesuch way up the NY Times bestseller list for all those weeks aren't really reading the book, they are hearing their own opera. It may be my opinion that the libretto owes more to Winfrey than to von Hoffsmanthal, and that the music is more likely Muzak than Mozart, but I am not the intended audience. For that intended audience, I am the bore who wishes to talk about Freemasonry or gender roles when they're trying to listen to The Magic Flute or Der Rosenkavalier.

No comments:

Post a Comment