Different Kinds of Music

A novel
By John Matthias

different-kinds-of-musicDifferent Kinds of Music follows Timothy “Westy” Westmont through six episodes from his childhood and youth, through his experiences as an archivist and a thief, to encounters with William Faulkner’s bear in St. Louis, Hemingway’s lingering ghost at Walloon Lake in Michigan, and Phillip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus in Columbus, Ohio itself. The narrative is sometimes funny, sometimes sad; and it progresses in an order more interesting than the merely chronological. Between the episodes appears a sequence of interchapters about music, the different kinds of which define Westmont’s experience from the 1940s to the turn of the 21st century in an idiom different from that of the narrative parts of the book. Different, too, is the final long chapter, “Westmont as Talbot Eastmore,” in which the author of the previous five episodes tells his own story in terms of a miniature Bildungsroman which is also an elegy for an old friend.

“John Matthias has written important poetry for a long time, and now at last he takes his most characteristic concerns — the power of play and imaginative escape — and sets them on a longer journey through this novel. Lost innocence, wounds buried or carried through a lifetime, and the narrow path of hope through the forest of memory haunt this book like music heard faintly from another room.”
— Robert Archambeau

“Reading these episodes in the life of Timothy Westmont is a bit like coming across a box of old photographs — horizons of a life that are clear, present and indelibly real, yet in their very persuasiveness, also like photographs, oddly magical and disquieting. Westmont is always at the center of the frame, directly and plainly seen, but as he develops, it’s the detail around him that intrigues us, the incidental background to 80 years of an American life and its inevitable framing of choice. Fascinating, too, are the musical interludes Matthias gives his story between its several sections, another set of evolving affinities, a set of pasts within music’s inevitable present — lullabies to marching bands to jazz, classical music and rock — the evolving sound track of Westmont’s life and our own.”
— Michael Anania

With the publication of Different Kinds of Music, John Matthias deserves comparison to Margaret Atwood and Sebastian Barry, distinguished poets who make the transition to writing first-rate fiction effortlessly. Through a shifting series of inventive narrative forms, meditations on art, music, and masks, Matthias’ novel records the making and unmaking of Timothy Westmont with wit and irony, excellent comic timing—and pathos. — John Hennessey

Different Kinds of Music by John Matthias
Publisher: Shearsman Books Ltd
Publication Date: September 15, 2014
188 pages. Price: $20.00
ISBN 978-1-848613-70-6
Available: Barnes & Noble

John Matthias has published 25 books of poetry, translation, essays, and collaboration, most recently Trigons (2009) and Collected Shorter Poems (2011), both from Shearsman Books. He is professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and co-editor of Notre Dame Review. His poem “A Slashed Painting by John Singer Sargent” appeared in the spring 2011 issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal.

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