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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

John Attanas' recent book about Yo-Yo Ma,
reviewed by Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
Have you read the recent Yo-Yo Ma: A Life in Music by John Attanas?
B. Smith, Minneapolis

Dear B Smith,

Oddly enough, I just received a review copy of this very book. In my opinion, the introduction said it all, stating compliments -- all hugely well-deserved -- from (and this is the order!!!!) Isaac Stern, Benjamin Zander, Town and Country magazine, The New York Times, and ('even!') Fred Rogers (bated breath) of no less than Mr Rogers' Neighborhood.


I mean, sorry, but have I missed something here? All right, establish the hero of your book's claim to fame. But how dare any writer combine -- in one sentence, mark you, and in the wrong order -- Fred Rogers of blinking Mr Rogers' Neighborhood and Isaac Stern????

Also, on almost every page, there is an grammatical disaster waiting to happen. Throughout the book there is the same elementary error: (page 18, one of zillions) 'The Ma's then return to Paris ...'

Additionally, there are such major hoots as (page 22): 'Not long after Yo-Yo enrolled at the Trent School, things started going badly there.'
What, wasn't he good enough?? I mean, God save the Queen!!!!

On page 24: '... as they headed home, all four member of the Ma family were elated.'
What, all four??!! The mind boggles!!!

Page 26: 'Amazingly, this at first phased (sic) Yo-Yo.'
(I'm not surprised. Misspellings of this order are enough to faze anybody.)

Yo-Yo Ma: A Life in Music -- John Attanas. © 2003 John Gordon Burke Publisher Inc

But possibly the most depressing part of this book its cover. There grins Yo-Yo Ma, with a bow hold so appalling that no self-respecting Grade 4 cellist would stoop to admit to it, apparently playing (God help us) so far up the fingerboard that the merest beginner should be ashamed. While, as the impossibly bad blurb on the book assures us (in case we had any serious doubts) that:

  1. Yo-Yo's audiences actually LISTEN to him (No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  2. Yo-Yo Ma has 'been able to work with an international group of musicians throughout his recording career' (??!!)
  3. He 'attended Harvard University' (follow me closely here) 'from where he graduated'
  4. 'He will surely present a number of musical events AND performances in the future that his musical fans now await with' (wait for it) 'keen interest and anticipation'
  5. 'As a cellist' (You kid me not? He plays the cello?) 'Yo-Yo Ma has premiered a number of new musical compositions for the cello' (where's the blinking comma??) 'which has stretched the instrument's bounds' (Help! Help! My cello is bound!!!!) 'and which now provide new repertoire for this' (wait for it) 'musical instrument.'

Good God. The cello as a musical instrument!!!!!

In short, this book is a disaster waiting to happen. I urge you to buy it. In these gloomy musical days we all deserve one good laugh a week.

Yours morosely,

Copyright © 22 June 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice

Yo-Yo Ma: A Life in Music

John Attanas

John Gordon Burke Publisher Inc, 2003

ISBN13 9780934 272759
ISBN10 093427275-1
152 pages, hardback




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