Avoid the Day: A New Nonfiction in Two Movements

Jay Kirk. Harper Perennial, $17.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-235617-8
Kirk (Kingdom Under Glass) casts about for some subject to distract himself as his father lies dying, in this uneven memoir. He lands on Béla Bartók (1881–1945), the Hungarian composer who wrote his Third String Quartet in nearby Waterbury, Vt. In peripatetic prose, Kirk devotes the first “movement” of his ragged narrative to his quest to reconstruct the story of the autograph manuscript of Bartók’s musical piece. Along the way, his travels take him to Transylvania and Philadelphia, Pa., in search of Otto Albrecht, the man who discovered the manuscript in a bank safe; the score now resides in the University of Pennsylvania’s Music Library. Here he shifts gears into his second movement, a quirky, seemingly tangential story of his trip to the Arctic Circle with his friends, where he avoids the guilt of knowing the relief he’ll feel when his father dies (“if only because I know how much easier it will be once there is only one of us around”). Kirk’s narrative disintegrates into an emotional swamp where one moment he’s obsessing over his hangovers and the next he’s getting misty-eyed over his father’s “yolky, barely animate eyes,” as he talks to his father via Skype. Kirk’s meandering memoir stalls in both of its movements, never quite connecting the themes. (July)
Reviewed on : 06/02/2020
Release date: 07/28/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-0941-1780-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-0941-1779-9
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-284876-5
Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-06-235618-5
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