Monday, May 14, 2007

My own wikipedia misinformation

A while back, Kyle Gann posted an article on the difficulties of trusting wikipedia in scholarly matters. I have my own episode of bogus wikipedia knowledge, albeit on a much smaller scale, which I found in its article on Beethoven's Archduke Trio. The article mentions that the trio "features prominently … in the mystery novel A Traitor to Memory (2001), by Elizabeth George." My wife read this novel a while back, and since it was still sitting on the shelf, I thought I'd give it a spin.

First, the novel is over 1000 pages, which is long for a mystery. It's highly psychological, and therefore a bit slow moving, but I did finish the book. But as for the Archduke figuring prominently, well. (Caution: small spoiler ahead.) One of the main characters is a violinist who has recently had a panic episode during a performance of the Archduke, and it turns out that a recording of the Archduke was playing during a traumatic event from his childhood. The music itself isn't discussed at all, and the work in question could have been anything.

If you want a novel where classical music is "featured prominently," check out Sleeping with Schubert, by Bonnie Marson. It's an implausible but entertaining novel about a New York attorney who finds her body inhabited by the spirit of Schubert, leading her to previously unimagined heights of musical ability. But I'm probably mistaken about how much Schubert is actually in the novel — it's not mentioned in wikipedia at all.

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