An Authority on the Mockeries of Age

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Facing the NightFacing the Night:  A Diary (1999-2005) and Musical Writings
by Ned Rorem
Shoemaker & Hoard.
240 pages, $25.

 

THERE IS no elegant design to Facing the Night. Ned Rorem’s new book is divided simply into three parts: diary entries made between 1999 and 2005, recent musical writing, mostly about composers Rorem has known, and program notes, including those written for his well-received 2006 opera Our Town. In a preface Rorem acknowledges that his writing is obsessive and repetitious. He also fears he has grown self-pitying. He needn’t. Near the end of the diary, Rorem mentions an event familiar to most men over fifty, rising on schedule to pee in the night. He does this with words both funny and apt, picturing himself “staggering to the bathroom where I hear laughter in the toilet.” At 82 and still a lucid, captivating writer, Ned Rorem is an authority on the mockeries of old age. He is also our most articulate and musically knowledgeable living composer. So, for two reasons this book is well worth reading.

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