Good Reading : April 2018
GOOD READING APRIL 2018 19 UP CLOSE 1 Richard passed away in March, 2015, shortly after Julianne Moore won the Oscar for Best Actress for her lead performance in Still Alice. Every Note Played follows a famed concert pianist who’s forever heart-broken that ‘millions listen to Justin Bieber all day long and will live and die without ever hearing Schumann or Liszt or Chopin’. But true despair comes when his ability to play the piano – much less master it – is taken away as ALS begins to paralyse his fingers. ‘Many of the people with ALS I’d been meeting and reading about felt their first symptoms in one of their hands. Fine motor function was weakened – couldn’t work a key in a keyhole, dropping a tennis racket, unable to fasten a button. So I chose a character whose career – and identity – would depend on fine motor function in his hands. And in making him a rather successful concert pianist, his expansive life on a world stage would collapse into the restricted space of his apartment and wheelchair.’ To create this character – who she named after Richard – Lisa got to know 12 people with ALS personally. Eight of them had died by the time she completed her first draft. On top of the exhaustive research Lisa undertook into the disease, she also needed to brush up on her classical music knowledge in order to create the character – Lisa’s more inclined to listen to Coldplay and Adele than Bach and Liszt. Lisa took piano lessons as she wrote and interviewed several professional pianists, including Australia’s own Simon Tedeschi. As Richard’s health declines, his ex-wife, Katrina, becomes his reluctant carer after an ‘acrimonious divorce’ three years prior to his diagnosis. The rekindling of their connection is the warm, beating heart of this book. ‘In writing about a fatal disease with no cure, I’m looking for other places that these characters might find healing,’ says Lisa. ‘There’s so much possibility in a broken relationship – things left unsaid, apology, forgiveness, redemption. Although even without ALS threatening voice and breath and life, those reparative words – I’m sorry, please forgive me, I was wrong – can feel impossible to utter.’ Every Note Played is Lisa’s fifth book. Since self-publishing Still Alice a decade ago and selling copies out of the boot of her car, she has become a respected voice for people living with neurological disorders and a communicator for research developments in the management and potential cures for these often untreatable conditions. Within Lisa’s books, although the subject matter can be scary and sad, are glimmers of hope. Lisa says her passion for telling the stories of neuroscience was ignited by Oliver Sacks when she read his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat during her college years. ‘How do our brains work to allow us to think, feel, remember, desire, empathise, laugh, love, walk, and talk? I find this infinitely fascinating,’ she says. ‘Oliver Sacks wrote, “In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life.” This is what I hope to do with my writing.’ Every Note Played by Lisa Genova is published by Simon & Schuster, rrp $32.99. ‘acr imonious divorce’ three years prior to his diagnosis. The rekindling of their connection is the warm, beating heart of this book. disease with no cure, I’m looking for other places that these characters might find healing,’ says Lisa. ‘There’s so much possibility in a broken relationship – things left unsaid, apology, forgiveness, redemption. Although even without ALS threatening voice and breath and life, ‘EVEN WITHOUT ALS THREATENING VOICE AND BREATH AND LIFE, THOSE REPARATIVE WORDS I’M SORRY, PLEASE FORGIVE ME, I WAS WRONG CAN FEEL IMPOSSIBLE TO UTTER.