Monday, October 27, 2014

Excerpt from "Eli's Heart"

A Musical Book Signing for Eli

     My book Eli’s Heart is in the forefront of my mind these days as I prepare to host a book signing at the Pocono Community Theater, a local movie house which is very “local author friendly.” The PCT is kind enough to allow me to use a very nice space for a musical presentation along with some brief readings from the book, and books will be available for purchase as well. Nice friends who are splendidly talented are performing some pieces which are an important part of the story. The event is scheduled for November 9, only about two weeks away.
     Eli Levin, my protagonist, is an unlikely hero but he is definitely a hero. Born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect, Eli is also a piano prodigy (though he hates the word and his close friends are careful not to use it). His entire life he struggles to live with both of these challenges, and he does this with humor and grace, though at times the stress overwhelms him. When he marries, his young wife is challenged to try to understand Eli and support him however she can through the difficult times, and rejoice with him during the good times.
     Music is a vital part of their life together, and one challenge for me was to describe the music that is particularly meaningful for them. Krissy and Eli meet as young teens and after some years apart, they are reunited when they are both college students. They reconnect first through letters and long-distance phone calls (it’s the nineteen fifties; no computers or cell phones), and finally see each other again at Christmas, just before her nineteenth birthday.
     They decide to marry, but they agree to wait a year. During the few days they spend together, Eli plays for Krissy; some is music she had heard him play years earlier, some pieces she is familiar with but hasn’t heard him play. One piece in particular she loves hearing as much as he loves playing is the Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Minor. Just before she leaves for the airport – she has to leave to return to her college before he goes back to his – she asks him to play it for her once more.
      I wanted to give them a “moment” before they part again. The time they spend together is either in Krissy’s home or in the home of Eli’s sister, who lives in the town in which Krissy had grown up. So while they are very much in love and are convinced they belong together, they haven’t yet made love. But it was important for them to have some affirmation of the strength of the bond they share.
     Rachmaninoff is probably my favorite composer, and I love the Prelude in G Minor as much as Krissy and Eli do. So when Eli is playing, Krissy is close to him, and they share an experience that makes the moment unforgettable for both of them.

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor began with repeated thick chords and heavy octave passages with large leaps up and down the keyboard, played rapidly. Eli pushed the tempo slightly; he loved doing that, especially with Rachmaninoff. The prelude had a grandeur and sweep to it, and demanded technical facility and strength. As with much of his music, Rachmaninoff slowed the tempo and introduced a beautiful melody, and the music became completely different, almost ethereal.
     As soon as Eli started the lyrical section something happened. He could feel his hands on the keys, he knew Krissy was touching him, but he felt he became a conduit for the music. It flowed through him and around him, opening up time and space. He continued to have a sense of transcendence through most of the section, and then the music gradually returned to the original idea, the sense of being somewhere else left him, and he was again sitting at Krissy’s piano playing Rachmaninoff for her.
     When he finished the piece he sat quietly for a moment. When he turned to look at Krissy, he could tell by the look of wonder on her face that she had made the journey with him. He asked softly, “Did you feel that?” Not wanting to speak, she nodded. They sat close together without feeling any need to talk, knowing what they had just experienced was remarkable.