Deep Purple: A Novel


For the distinguished critic Agustín Cabán, music is indispensable to sexual emotion. Forced to retire from his San Juan newspaper, Agustín is writing his memoirs, which describe his long career seducing the women and men who were among the most brilliant classical musicians in the world.The Australian pianist Clint Verret offered a passionate and tender interlude. Clarissa Berdsley, the French horn player, was submissive and playful. The flamboyant violinist Manuela Suggia ...

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2004 Trade paperback New. No dust jacket as issued. Softcover, new with remainder mark. Spine not creased. NO tears, stains, writing, etc. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. ... 192 p. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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For the distinguished critic Agustín Cabán, music is indispensable to sexual emotion. Forced to retire from his San Juan newspaper, Agustín is writing his memoirs, which describe his long career seducing the women and men who were among the most brilliant classical musicians in the world.The Australian pianist Clint Verret offered a passionate and tender interlude. Clarissa Berdsley, the French horn player, was submissive and playful. The flamboyant violinist Manuela Suggia turned out to be a vengeful and demonic lover.

In Deep Purple, Mayra Montero explores the relationship between sexual desire and music. For Agustín Cabán ultimately finds, in that deep and mysterious place that is the core of human sexuality, nothing less than the meaning of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
“Montero may be one of the most under-recognized Latin American writers of our time.”
New York Times Book Review
“Dreamlike intensity.”
Dallas Morning News
“Lyric and lovely.”
The New York Times
Cabán may be recent literature's most comical Casanova. And the voice of the hero of this smart, tart novel by the Cuban exile Mayra Montero (who now lives in Puerto Rico) has not been lost in Edith Grossman's translation from the Spanish. That's good, because the novel's success depends almost completely on its enticing tone. Sometimes Deep Purple is deceptively sweet, like, say, Satie's ''Gymnopedies.'' Sometimes it's parodic and sneakily menacing, like Stravinsky's ''Eight Miniatures.'' Although quite short, the novel shape-shifts through many mood changes as Cabán makes his case for the sinuous connection between music and sexuality. — Lisa Zeidner
The L.os Angeles Times
It can be most difficult to compose sex scenes without appearing to be gratuitous or crude. Montero's work successfully transcends the erotica genre because her description of the act is clearly metaphorical, abstract in execution and devoid of clichéd porno prattle. Her great talent is her ability to envelop the reader in her character's psychological head games, which include underlying currents of sadistic pleasure. But even though most of the action is cerebral, her prose is blunt and direct; she does not choose to linger on sentimentality. It's easy to see why the novel won Spain's prestigious literary prize for erotica, the Sonrisa Vertical (The Vertical Smile) in 2000. — Adriana Lopez
Publishers Weekly
Seduction becomes a game of musical chairs in Montero's latest, a short, succulent erotic novel in which a libidinous music critic catalogues his conquests of the various virtuosos he's reviewed over the years. After a long and distinguished stint as the music reviewer for a San Juan newspaper, Agustin Caban has just retired. But he still has much to say, and it's not long before he's back at his desk, encouraged by his editor to pen a series of erotic memoirs. He begins with his affair with Virginia Tuten, the violinist who becomes his lifelong passion despite the presence of Caban's long-suffering and nearly invisible wife. Caban doesn't limit himself to women: another tryst is with male pianist Clint Verret, which turns into a threesome when Verret brings a woman into the picture. In other interludes, Caban's lovers are cheekily likened to their instruments: one plays the celeste and another the clarinet. But Montero saves Caban's most thrilling adventures for last. In his affair with French horn player Clarissa Berdsley, the musician's pet bat gets in on the sexual shenanigans, and a series of degrading but satisfyingly kinky episodes with violinist Manuela Suggia comes to a tragicomic end. Montero (The Red of His Shadow, etc.) shows considerable creativity in sustaining her one-note conceit, and she paints an appealing portrait of Caban as a wryly erudite gigolo who uses music in a variety of innovative ways as a vehicle for seduction. The combination of arch, literate writing (effortlessly translated by Grossman) and Caban's daring sexual escapades make this book a delectable treat from start to finish, especially for classical music mavens. (June) Forecast: This erotic fantasia compares favorably with Mario Vargas Llosa's Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, and is another successful entry in Montero's steadily growing oeuvre. Though critically it may be considered a side step, it should win Montero an influx of new readers. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It's easy to understand why this work won the Sonrisa Vertical Prize for erotic fiction. Agust!n Cab n, a music critic retiring from a San Juan newspaper, is encouraged to write his memoirs about his relationships with distinguished classical musicians throughout his career. Unfolding in sonata form is a series of episodes describing in graphic detail his trysts with five famous soloists, male and female alike; we are led to understand that others occurred but are not described. Cuban-born Montero attempts, not entirely successfully, to persuade the reader of the strong link between eroticism and the aesthetics of music, especially as the various sexual styles reflect the instrument that the virtuosi play. The overlay of burlesque dissipates that metaphor somewhat, and the strong erotic flavor overshadows the aesthetic. As always, translator Grossman turns out a well-balanced and smooth read. A fitting successor to The Last Night I Spent with You in its sensuality and to The Messenger for its ties to the classical music world, this is entertaining but not great literature. Reluctantly recommended.-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Music is the ultimate aphrodisiac in this aggressively sexy sixth novel from the Cuban-born author. The subject is retired newspaper music critic Agustin Caban's piecemeal memoir of his erotic encounters with eminent-and, it seems, perpetually ardent-classical performers (" . . . the musical climax makes them want the other climax: they are burning up inside"). Caban's revelations, coaxed out of him by his salivating former editor, introduce such willing and various crazed partners as a sexually repressed mulatto violinist, a bisexual male Australian pianist, and a French horn virtuosa who's also an expert fellatrix. These very entertaining vignettes also cohere into a subtle, striking character study of a music lover who's simultaneously observer, celebrant, and exploiter of the art and artists he helplessly adores. The best yet from Montero (The Red of His Shadow, 2001, etc.).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060938215
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/25/2004
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Mayra Montero was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1952, but has lived in Puerto Rico since the mid 1960s. She studied journalism in Mexico and Puerto Rico and worked for many years as a correspondent in Central America and the Caribbean. She is presently a highly acclaimed journalist in Puerto Rico and writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Dia newspaper. Montero's first book was a collection of short stories, Twenty-Three and a Turtle. Her second book, a novel titled The Braid of the Beautiful Moon, was a finalist for the Herralde awards, one of Europe's most prestigious literary awards. Each of her subsequent books — The Last Night I Spent With You, The Red of His Shadow, In the Palm of Darkness, and The Messenger — has been published in the United States in translations by Edith Grossman, as well as in several European countries. Her other nonfiction work appears frequently in scholarly and literary publications throughout the world.

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First Chapter

Deep Purple
A Novel

Chapter One

Saying good-bye to one's profession is like saying good-bye to sex, one clings to it, I cling to this brief piece of writing as if it were a woman's body, the last I will ever embrace in my life.

I walk with a firm step through the editorial offices and notice that no one gives me a special greeting. In my heart of hearts, I expected just the opposite: that they would seem uncomfortable or nervous, afraid of seeing themselves in my mirror, and for that very reason feeling a certain urgency to be rid of me.

I don't have to ask for Sebastián, the entertainment editor. I know I'll find him in the office of the editorial writer, the most private and remote of all the offices. The man goes out for lunch between one and two O'clock, and Sebastián takes advantage of his absence to lie down under his desk, put on a mask, and take a little nap. Before he falls asleep, he leafs through the magazines that he does not dare to leaf through at home: athletes with big buttocks, extravagant mulattoes, young boys in bloom. Any day now he'll retire too, and when he leaves his profession he'll leave his magazines as well: the torsos he lightly caresses with his fingertips, the thighs he will never bite, the bellies that will never experience the licking of his aged tongue. When he leaves the paper, he'll leave everything he desired in silence. I am leaving; I desired in silence, but I have also attained my desires: quietly I have devoured the world. Or so I've wanted to believe.

"Sebastián," I call. "Are you awake?"

In addition to the mask, he has a plush band tied around his forehead. The band is soaked in bay rum, and that means a migraine has dug its claws into him.

"Here's my last piece," I say, and I lay the papers on the desk.

"The photographs arrived," he replies, removing his mask.

The band soaked in bay rum is the only vice he owes to his wife. That, at least, is what Gloria, his wife, says; a teacher of English literature, she is a phlegmatic, subtle woman who knows very well what she has at home. All women try not to know, but deep down they do.

"You should have kept count," Sebastián says to me, half-opening his eyes. "With all the virtuosas you fucked, you could have formed your own band."

"One or two male soloists fell too," I admit, relishing his surprise ahead of time. Or perhaps he isn't surprised?

Sebastián laughs, but as if he were slightly shocked. I know I've plucked a dangerous string, and he sits up in order to hear better. Then I think I ought to give him this happiness. For him, too, it must be happiness.

"It was about twenty years ago. He was an Australian pianist -- perhaps you remember him -- he wore his hair in a little knot in back."

He stands and shakes out his trousers, very carefully, to gain time. I look only at his expectant face, those eyes that have filled up with an intense, melancholy astonishment.

"Of course, he loosened the knot. His back was white, very white, and his hands were freckled."

"I remember that pianist," Sebastián murmurs, and he begins to chew for no reason, a gesture that means nothing but old age.

"Clint Verret." I say his name curtly. "And I assure you he wasn't the only one."

He shakes his head, trying to appear incredulous. But at this point, with my final review lying on the desk, which is like saying with the barrel of a revolver pressing against my temple, he knows I'm incapable of lying.

"I followed him to Denver. We spent three days there."

"You must be ready to die," Sebastián prognosticates. "I can't believe you're making a confession."

"I'm already dead," I say to him quietly. "When I finished writing that review I died of despair."

We both know what I will have to endure now. In less than five minutes they'll call me to the managing editor's office) I'll go there as if I didn't suspect a thing, and I'll find a little farewell party. Some people will try to console me: they'll talk about how lucky I am to be able to travel, and how much I'll enjoy my grandchildren, and what a delight it will be to sit down and read the books I didn't have time to read before. I won't tell them that I don't travel anymore; my wife insists, but I've lost interest. Or that I have no desire to devote myself to my daughter's children, taking them to shopping centers and buying them trinkets; who wants to grow old like an idiot? Or that at this stage of my life I have no reason to start reading the books I once ignored. I want to do exactly what I was doing when they suggested I retire: teach orchestral history and literature at the conservatory, and write music criticism for the paper. My work at the conservatory ended some months ago, but I had hoped to continue writing my reviews. I possess all the necessary experience, and I'll bet that after so many years I'm the only one who has the perfect dose of malice. I know how to gauge musicians from the first moment I see them. With a woman, I look at how she raises her shoulders, or the manner in which she purses her mouth. With a man, I always notice his crotch, and in particular how he moves his thumbs.

"Write your memoirs or something," Sebastián suggests. "Didn't you say you were keeping notes for a book? Write it, Agustín, do it now. We can sign it with a pseudonym."

Deep Purple
A Novel
. Copyright © by Mayra Montero. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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