cover image DEEP PURPLE


Mayra Montero, , trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. . Ecco, $22.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621420-7

Seduction becomes a game of musical chairs in Montero's latest, a short, succulent erotic novel in which a libidinous music critic catalogues his conquests of the various virtuosos he's reviewed over the years. After a long and distinguished stint as the music reviewer for a San Juan newspaper, Agustín Cabán has just retired. But he still has much to say, and it's not long before he's back at his desk, encouraged by his editor to pen a series of erotic memoirs. He begins with his affair with Virginia Tuten, the violinist who becomes his lifelong passion despite the presence of Cabán's long-suffering and nearly invisible wife. Cabán doesn't limit himself to women: another tryst is with male pianist Clint Verret, which turns into a threesome when Verret brings a woman into the picture. In other interludes, Cabán's lovers are cheekily likened to their instruments: one plays the celeste and another the clarinet. But Montero saves Cabán's most thrilling adventures for last. In his affair with French horn player Clarissa Berdsley, the musician's pet bat gets in on the sexual shenanigans, and a series of degrading but satisfyingly kinky episodes with violinist Manuela Suggia comes to a tragicomic end. Montero (The Red of His Shadow, etc.) shows considerable creativity in sustaining her one-note conceit, and she paints an appealing portrait of Cabán as a wryly erudite gigolo who uses music in a variety of innovative ways as a vehicle for seduction. The combination of arch, literate writing (effortlessly translated by Grossman) and Cabán's daring sexual escapades make this book a delectable treat from start to finish, especially for classical music mavens. (June)

Forecast:This erotic fantasia compares favorably with Mario Vargas Llosa's Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, and is another successful entry in Montero's steadily growing oeuvre. Though critically it may be considered a side step, it should win Montero an influx of new readers.