cover image For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals

For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals

Wayne C. Booth. University of Chicago Press, $22 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-226-06585-4

This entertaining meditation on the rewards of being an amateur cellist is both a memoir and a philosophical inquiry into the meaning of time and pleasure. The author, a literary scholar and professor emeritus of English at the University of Chicago, began learning to play the cello when he was 31, fully realizing that he would never become a professional. Now in his 70s, Booth details the decades he has spent playing for the sheer love of it and the rewards his commitment has brought him. Although he learned both the clarinet and piano as a child in a musical family, Booth later opted for the cello, in part because he could then accompany his wife, a violinist and viola player, in chamber music concerts with friends. He describes the difficulties, delights and just plain fun he has had in his struggle to play better, with both good and bad teachers as well as patient and impatient amateur chamber musicians. He also recounts how playing became a form of spiritual healing after the death of his son. Booth convincingly argues that amateur activities such as music, painting or scholarly pursuits undertaken for pleasure enrich a driven society too concerned with monetary success. (Apr.)