54 years of chamber music and more

(More from the gigantic backlog of postings.)

This is a chorus of praise for a forthcoming book by my sister-in-law Virginia Transue (technically, my sister-in-law-in-law, and even that involves stretching the sense of spouse a bit: VT is my husband-equivalent’s brother’s wife, but we disregard all the lexical niceties, since she and I are all that’s left in the immediate family from our generation). With a surprising kicker about the moral underpinning of her enterprise — nobody expects A.J. Liebling!

The cover of the book:

Note the subtitle

About the book. For 54 years, VT brought chamber music to a place known almost entirely as a college football powerhouse in the middle of a cultural backwater of the American Deep South — but with a serious university that has all the amenities of such an institution. (I remind you that I taught for four years at the University of Illinois, out there in the cornfields.) She arranged and ran the concerts, bringing amazing musicians in (sometimes putting them up in her own house) and filling the concert hall with apreciative audiences for them. Now she has created a record of all of these concerts, every one of them. Which is a record of joy, including some compact backstories about the concerts.

Not only was she responsible for the text, she also designed the cover.

An amazing accomplishment.

The moral underpinning. How to live a life. In VT’s words:

A line from A.J. Liebling … He remarked that his father, who had worked hard his whole and never knew a minute’s leisure, nevertheless “understood the value of knowledge with no commercial value”, I was already cleaving to such a view before I saw that, knew that was how I intended to live.

Not just knowledge, of course, but also artistic creation.

On A.J. Liebling, from Wikipedia:

Abbott Joseph Liebling (October 18, 1904 – December 28, 1963) was an American journalist who was closely associated with The New Yorker from 1935 until his death. His New York Times obituary called him “a critic of the daily press, a chronicler of the prize ring, an epicure and a biographer of such diverse personages as Gov. Earl Long of Louisiana and Col. John R. Stingo.” He was known for dubbing Chicago the “Second City” and for the aphorism “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Liebling’s boxing book The Sweet Science was named the greatest sports book of all time by Sports Illustrated. Liebling was a connoisseur of French cuisine, a subject he wrote about in Between Meals: An Appetite For Paris. Pete Hamill, editor of a Library of America anthology of Liebling’s writings, said “He was a gourmand of words, in addition to food… he retained his taste for ‘low’ culture too: boxers and corner men, conmen and cigar store owners, political hacks and hack operators. They’re all celebrated in [his] pages.”

Liebling was also wonderfully, wryly, funny.


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