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June 27, 2016

Book Notes - Richard Hawley "The Three Lives Of Jonathan Force"

The Three Lives Of Jonathan Force

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Richard Hawley's The Three Lives Of Jonathan Force is an impressive novel of ideas that traces one fascinating man's life.

In his own words, here is Richard Hawley's Book Notes music playlist for his novel The Three Lives Of Jonathan Force:

My novel sequence The Three Lives Of Jonathan Force traces from first sensory impression to last breath the long life of a remarkable man. Jonathan rises to consciousness feeling connected to a golden, better place which, when his circumstances give him a glimpse of it, he calls The Other World.

In the process of growing up into his very particular twentieth and twenty first century world, he achieves great success as a famous cultural pundit—but at the cost of losing his spiritual connectedness. Nearly losing it. In what his contemporaries regard as an unthinkable rejection of his life's work, Jonathan changes course dramatically in late life.

Music—popular music—informs and inspires him as he first makes his way into and then back to The Other World. As a small boy growing up in the American Midwest after the Second World War he is carried away by the romantic ardor of the operettas he hears on his grandparents' Victrola: Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow, Oscar Straus's, Chocolate Soldier, Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta, Sigmund Romberg's Student Prince. The stirring ballads from these scores evoke a time prior to Jonathan's immersion in the culture of his day; they are for him a message full of import. At six, he will sit on the curb of a neighborhood street and sing loudly in the direction of the house containing, he has determined, his heroic beloved: “Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you—for at last I've found the secret of it all." (From Naughty Marietta.)

As a very old man, Jonathan improbably becomes a mentor and father surrogate to a wonderfully spirited Hispanic boy in Key West, Florida. He introduces the boy Julio, to stirring love songs from an idiom and era unknown to Julio: the love songs of George Gershwin and Cole Porter, including, “How Long Has This Been Going On?" “Embraceable You," “Easy to Love," and “Blame it on my Youth."

These ballads speak to Julio, connecting him, as the operettas once connected Jonathan, to a better, richer world, just beyond, just prior to, this one.

Richard Hawley and The Three Lives Of Jonathan Force links:

the author's website
the author's blog

Necessary Fiction interview with the author
The Quivering Pen essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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