Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bel Canto

After meaning to read this book for a few years, I finally got around to it. It was one of those books that I didn't appreciate it's beauty until it was nearly over. Unfortunate. It is the story of a number of wealthy businessmen and their wives from all over the world and a group of Latin American terrorists who take the men hostage at a party. Intending to kidnap only the president of an unnamed Latin American country, when he did not show, they settled for the businessmen and Roxane Cross, a world renown opera star. The most interesting part to me was how Ann Patchett explored the breakdown of human relationships and the the needs of the human mind when placed in such a situation.

The hostages and the terrorists within time broke the one rule that could ruin everything: they began to see each other as people and not as enemies. And, like just like the poets of the past have predicted over every age, it was art that began to break down the walls. Bel Canto means "beautiful singing" and when Roxane Cross started to practice again, the entire house was captivated by the beauty of her voice: "Kato played another and then another until everyone else in the room forgot that they badly wanted to be someplace else." I am so fascinated by the power of art: be it painting, music, theater, literature to remind people of what is beautiful and good:

"All of the love and longing a body can contain was spun into not more than two and a half minutes of song, and when she came to the highest notes it seemed that all they had been given in their lives and all they had lost came together made a weight that was almost impossible to bear. "

I don't want to give away the story of the hostages and their captors, but I have been trying to think of what else I could say about the bewitching universality of music and art, but with no surprise to myself, I realized there are no words.

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