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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
2:26 pm est
My first Basset Hound, Frankie, was a therapy dog for the Alzheimer's unit of a local senior citizen facility.
For two years, every other Sunday afternoon, w/he visited the residents—most of whom, forgetful from visit to visit,
greeted him with surprised joy each time. Frankie, of course, lapped up the attention, joyously bounding from room to room
searching for his favorites. These were bitter-sweet times. Many of the residents, no longer able to remember family and friends,
were sadly forgotten by their loved ones. Chatting with the attendants as Frankie enjoyed an ear rub or a back scratch from
one of the residents, I learned their stories. Many made significant contributions to society—an open-heart surgeon,
a well-known writer, two teachers, and a local politician among them—and were relegated to suffer the numbing effects
of a devastatingly cruel disease.
Being unmindful of older members of a dwindling generation is probably the greatest
failing of our modern society. How often have we jostled an older Senior Citizen neglecting to offer a smile or a helping
hand in our more youthful haste to send the next text or post another inane social media entry? How often have we said to
an older family member, "Sorry...but life is too hectic right now...maybe I'll call in a few weeks"? When was the
last time we—you—took the time, sat down,
asked for, and actually listened to one of their (our) stories? I bet, if you did, you'd be surprised, delighted, and, perhaps,
I wish I could say that about The Music...Oh,the Music by Francesca Noumoff, whose second entry into the literary world was published in August 2012** While stylistically and lyrically
written, this slender volume is neither surprising, delightful, nor entertaining. And I don't think it was meant to be. This
is a poignantly sad story of the life of a Nazi war crimes survivor, Elonora, a now very old Russian woman, marginalized and
forgotten in a municipal home for the aged. While dying in her white cell, overlooking a lush valley, she is visited by other
aged, forgotten residents, as well as memories of people in her past. Their histories are told in thirty-three short, yet
complicated, vignettes designed to replicate the more poetic nuances of prose. And, seemingly, to capture the world of mid-Twentieth
Century music—of which Elonora was a major part—destroyed by the 1942 Anchluss and the extermination of millions.
The unnamed narrator is a supposed "witness", a friend of Elonora, who claims to have found her a decade after World
War II and has come to listen to, and record, her tales.
Reading The Music...Oh,the Music was as challenging to me as my learning to play Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
on the ukulele. I could pick out the initial single note theme--dah, dah dah, dum!--but
to play the complex rifts and ensuing intertwining orchestration was nearly impossible. Noumoff offers an explanatory introduction
of Elonora's life: her privileged early years with her sister, Elena, in the courts of Russia; her rise as a famed musician;
her marriage; her world-wide travels; and, eventually, her incarcerations in both German and Cambodian prison camps. I was
intrigued at first, but was soon lost in Noumoff's flowery prose, heavily overlade with adjectives and disjointed pronouns
cached in long, run-on paragraphs. The content was almost annoyingly studded with quotes of famous philosophers, authors,
and historians to, perhaps, prove or augment a point in what is a series of sorrowful laments.
point of this novel, however, I came to realize, is to rail against the brutal atrocities of the Nazis in an attempt to ensure
that the Holocaust and its victims are never to be forgotten. Its second and more profound message is the marginalization
of older people, whose earlier lives—richly filled with wonder and dreams—end lost in abject obscurity. Noumoff
offers these in a distressingly sad, bitter-sweet, almost atonal disharmonic novel in an attempt to re-capture what is perceived
to be forgotten but, with a little effort on our part, can and should be more easily remembered.
© 2012 by Francesca Noumoff. 103 pages. Published through Xlibris Corporation (Xlibris.com) in hardback, paperback, and e-reader formats.
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of
Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her fifth novel.