I think most musicians are readers. Music is story, after all, and for my next holiday gift recommendation I’m offering you a book. It’s called The Sandy Bottom Orchestra and it’s by Jenny Lind Nilsson and Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion fame.
My dad bought me this book when I was about 12 as reading material for a lengthy plane ride, and technically it is a young adult novel. However, my mother and father both proceeded to read it and enjoyed it just as much as I. Centering around a young violinist in a small Wisconsin town not known for its fine culture, this particular coming of age story is none so hackneyed as similar stories often are. Any child training seriously in classical musicianship can probably relate to that feeling of “otherness,” and most adult musicians still have that kid inside.
And if that isn’t enough to tempt you, how about: the Dairyland Symphony Orchestra, a musician who accessorizes with glitter, an Aida ice cream flavor, the fantasy of running away to Italy to become a bar pianist, why conducting your speakers with a pencil is not the same as actually conducting, the healing power of a white button-down shirt, a sexy cellist with nice hair, and a drive-in movie about killer squash. There.
The writing style is familiar to anyone who has read Keillor; there is a certain free-association-stream-of-consciousness thing going on so prevalent in his work, and the intimacy that comes of writing about a small town similar to his stories about Lake Wobegon. However, the plot is far more structured and less tangential than some of his novels (here I am thinking specifically of Pontoon; dude, Keillor, FOCUS!). Garrison Keillor is best as a miniaturist, but I think Nilsson’s influence enables him to keep his story on track for a novel’s length.
I understand there’s a movie too, but I haven’t seen it and I’m frankly dubious.
If you’ve been won over by this glowing review and want to buy this book for somebody and then cheerfully check them off your holiday list, here’s the Google price comparison.