Ghost Quartet

Richard Burgin, Author Triquarterly Books $25.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-8101-5095-9
The balancing act between art and ambition has been an enduring literary theme since Balzac's Lucien de Rubempre lost his virtue in 19th-century Paris. In Burgin's novel, Ray Stoneson is a composer who compromises his heart in the rarefied air of Tanglewood's and New York City's classical music coteries. Ambitious Ray is 32 and gifted, but his career could use a boost. He's also desperate to win back and marry his ex-girlfriend, singer Joy Davis, who dumped him because of his infidelities. When Ray meets world-renowned conductor-composer Perry Green (clearly modeled on Leonard Bernstein), he quickly spots a way to advance his career. Perry invites Ray to spend a weekend at his house in Interlaken, conveniently located near both Tanglewood and Joy's summer cottage. He professes to find Ray's compositions ""interesting,"" but clearly indicates that he wants sex in exchange for helping Ray's career. Although Ray is worried that Perry's live-in partner, young actor Bobby Martin, will feel threatened by Perry's new interest, Perry waves away his concern, claiming that Bobby is compliant. Ray gingerly slides into secret sex with Perry, who, as promised, starts promoting Ray's music. Tension mounts when Ray and Joy finally reconnect, since Joy is clueless about Ray's double life. Meanwhile, Perry's geniality masks a fundamental egotism that blinds him to Bobby's feelings. Finally, a vengeful and self-destructive Bobby goes berserk. Burgin's plot would make a good opera, Cos fan tutte with a Faustian twist. His matter-of-fact prose captures the muted struggle and achromatic inner life of a man too hungry for success and na ve about the costs. Burgin (Fear of Blue Skies) knows all the major players and the buzz words of the contemporary music field, and he is adept at designing the crisp, evocative stage on which his well-defined but strangely distant, glib characters make their motives crystal clear. Agent, Giles Anderson. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1999
Release date: 11/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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