Instrumental by James Rhodes

Instrumental by James Rhodes is an odd reading choice for me. It is in fact one which I had not planned to make – but that is the thing with Christmas gifts -. Oddly enough, despite the fact that it was not a purchase I made (I always  do a bit of research to avoid something that will not be my cup of tea), my boss had previously recommended it with a warning on some of the subject matter in it.  I did point out on my “A Confederacy of Dunces” review how unusual it is for me to read something that has not been adapted to another form, well,  let me assure you that reading a book that is on the shelves of most decent sized bookshops is equally unusual – if not more -. I was also trying to think of any other autobiographies that I’ve read but I think that this is the first one.

Cover of the Spanish Edition

A quick summary for those that do not know who James Rhodes is. He is a pianist trying to make classical music more accessible for younger generations by moving away  from the elitism associated with it. He was raped for many years since age five and this caused him tremendous damage both psychologically and physically, issues with drugs, alcoholism, suicide, self-inflicted cuts. Thankfully with loving friends, family, a lot of luck and classical music he managed to deal with most of these issues.

This book is about his life. Every chapter is titled with the name of a musical piece by different famous composers (begins and ends with Bach’s Goldberg variations). All the chapters have a  one page intro on that particular piece, why he chose it, the history behind it, and they are followed by the events that shaped him. The author does mention that, in his concerts, he enjoys talking about the different choices he makes before playing them and how the feedback from the attendants is always very positive and even welcomed. I’m glad that he adapted this routine to a book format  – just instead of playing, writing about his life – and I look forward to listening to some of his recommendations.

At the end of the book he discusses the difficulties trying to get it published. I can clearly see why. He doesn’t shy away from the details and the impact all those horrible things had on him, his family, friends and his son.  It truly felt like someone trying to deal with really difficult issues with as much honesty as possible, and I’m glad that it never feels exploitative or gimmicky or like he is trying to play an angle. This reads like an exorcism. A man dealing with his demons and telling his story.

For a few seconds I’ve hesitated about giving my personal thoughts on him, but quite frankly even if this is my blog, I don’t think I should pass judgment. I’m so far from the experiences that James Rhodes has been through that giving a personal opinion on the man itself would feel tacky and wrong.

I’m glad that there are stories about the power of music and love and how they can save your life. I finished reading this book the 30th of January 2017.


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