The Soloist

The Soloist

3.8 8
by Mark Salzman

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As a child, Renne showed promise of becoming one of the world's greatest cellists. Now, years later, his life suddenly is altered by two events: he becomes a juror in a murder trial for the brutal killing of a Buddhist monk, and he takes on as a pupil a Korean boy whose brilliant musicianship reminds him of his own past.

From the Trade Paperback edition.…  See more details below


As a child, Renne showed promise of becoming one of the world's greatest cellists. Now, years later, his life suddenly is altered by two events: he becomes a juror in a murder trial for the brutal killing of a Buddhist monk, and he takes on as a pupil a Korean boy whose brilliant musicianship reminds him of his own past.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of Iron and Silk offers a quirky and enjoyable about a one time cello prodigy cellist who is transformed by his involvement in a murder trial. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This illuminating novel by the author of Iron and Silk ( LJ 2/1/87) probes the inner life of Reinhart (Renne) Sundheimer, a former boy-wonder cellist who gave up performing in his late teens and now, as a 36-year-old academic, considers himself a has-been. His quiet life changes drastically when he is selected as a juror in the Los Angeles County murder trial of a student accused of killing a Buddhist monk. During the trial, the virginal Renne stumbles into a romantic entanglement; he also agrees to teach a six-year-old Korean boy who may be a prodigy. A perfectionist who owns a blender selected for its F-sharp pitch, Renne is ripe for metamorphosis. Suspense builds inside and out as the trial progresses. The mesmerizing first-person narration reveals Renne's self-tortured character, keen intelligence, and troubled heart as he ponders classical music, human nature, astronomy, and sanity/insanity. A spiritual journey not to be missed. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston
School Library Journal
YA-The difficulties encountered by ``gifted and talented'' children are dispassionately chronicled in this unusual story about a musical prodigy who as an adult must come to terms with his own mediocrity. When Reinhart Sundheimer's gift as a world-renowned cellist suddenly and inexplicably deserts him at age 18, he is bereft, for he knows no other life than that of the concert stage and is accustomed to adulation. As a college professor who has never learned social skills, he is aloof from his colleagues and spends his spare time practicing in the vain hope that his gift will return. Then, in one event-filled week, the outside world invades his insular environment. First, he is called to jury duty and, second, he agrees to give cello lessons to a 12-year-old prodigy. Interacting with other jurors during deliberations on a brutal murder case and reacting to the unpredictability of his student and the student's Korean family require emotional resources that he never knew he possessed. Both experiences result in personal insight that allows him to accept his limitations as a musician and gives him courage to broaden his horizons as a man. YAs are sure to empathize with the troubled protagonist.-Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Donna Seaman
Salzman just gets better and better. His memoir "Iron and Silk" (1987) was a hit, and his first novel, "The Laughing Sutra" (1990), was funny and smart, but this book is a jewel. Reinhart Sundheimer was a child prodigy who could coax the very music of the gods from a cello even before he could touch the floor with his feet while seated. He spent his youth studying with an old master and performing around the world. But then, just as inexplicably as it arrived, the magic evaporated, and Sundheimer was left high and dry with no social life to speak of, no sexual experiences, an unsatisfying university job, and a profound sense of failure. This miasma lasts well into his thirties until Sundheimer agrees, albeit reluctantly, to accept a Korean boy as a student. Shy little Kyung-hee is a genuine prodigy whose pure and intuitive response to music acts as a balm to Sundheimer's bruised and neglected soul. At the same time, Sundheimer is summoned to jury duty. He ends up assigned to a case that involves the murder of a Zen Buddhist master by a novice disciple. Sundheimer is forced to broaden his participation in life. He must interact with his fellow jurors, including an attractive woman who tries to get him to loosen up, and consider weighty questions about the meaning of guilt, sanity, responsibility, and the tricky relationship between teacher and student. Slowly and self-consciously, Sundheimer attains a renewed sense of himself and discovers how to find peace in our jarring world. This is a beautiful novel, a veritable concerto. Salzman's intonation is flawless, his themes infinitely ponderable, his symmetry and resolution captivating and uplifting.
Kirkus Reviews
Jury duty in a murder trial helps resolve a classical musician's deep professional crisis—in a haunting second novel from the author of The Laughing Sutra (1990) and Iron and Silk (1986), Salzman's acclaimed book (and later movie) about China. Cellist Reinhart (Renne) Sundheimer, the son of German Jews who fled to America, was once a child prodigy. After the war, his mother returned to Germany so he could study with world-famous cellist Johannes von Kempen, who had retired from the orchestra rather than endure false charges of Nazi sympathies. The ancient maestro, with his inspirational dignity, became the most important person in young Renne's life, softening its loneliness (no playmates, no girlfriends). Then, tragedy: at 18, a conjectural hearing problem drove Renne from the concert stage. When Salzman's story begins, Renne is 34, a cello teacher at UCLA, still a virgin, still grimly determined to concertize again. Two events reshape his identity. He becomes deeply involved in teaching a new prodigy, Kyung-hee, a nine-year-old Korean-American, and he serves as a juror in the trial of a Zen student accused of murdering his master. Salzman skillfully interweaves flashbacks with the nurturing of Kyung-hee and the story of the trial and its offshoot, a budding romance between Renne and fellow-juror Maria-Teresa, an attractive married woman. Renne's insecurity with women snuffs out the romance; then he finds himself the lone holdout for a guilty- but-insane verdict and the object of his fellow-jurors' contempt. Yet the two traumas cause Renne's regeneration as musician and as moral being: he sees the trial as "his graduate recital" for his old master, while he serenelyguides his young prot‚g‚ toward a brilliant future. Salzman's handling of his weighty theme—the passing of torches as the ennobling essence of civilization—is unfailingly light and delicate: this is lovely, offbeat movie material.

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
2 MB

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Soloist 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dony like the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Any musician wouldd enjoy this book. It makes you stop and think about what it means to practice. an instrument or sport in a mindful way daily not just a mechanical repetetive exercise. That is the tie in anx meaning of Zen Budhism to the story. Actually focus on whateve you do if you wish to truly excell. Then there is the concept of not only focusing on yourself but your responsability to others. If you are on Jury Duty focus on the other persons life. And do we really try tto understand people with Mental Illness? Is it ever ok to have an Insnity plea for murder ? This book is for anyone with an interest in philosophy. Plato etc. are discussed. And Zen Buddhism is explained not as a religion but rather a philosophy of life. This novel is full of complex ideas. It would also appeal to teachers with the story about the precocious music student and his immigrant parents. I think it is a most enjoyable thought provoking read.
peakbagger06 More than 1 year ago
Saltzman melds Buddhism, the insanity defense, teaching, self-examination, justice and a host of other topics into a tightly knit package. I generally read non-fiction but felt this was exceptional fiction. The protagonist is worth getting to know. This will go down as one of my favorites. I look forward to reading another of his.
SMeeker More than 1 year ago
Rarely does a book possess the power to change one’s view of the world. The Soloist, by Steve Lopez, opened my eyes to the social tragedy of homelessness, and after reading it, I will never look at a person sleeping on the sidewalk the same way again. In simple and direct journalistic diction, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez provides frightening insight into homelessness and mental illness. As a columnist, Lopez constantly searches for his next story. He encounters “vagrant violinist,” Nathaniel Ayers on Skid Row playing Beethoven on a beat up, two-stringed violin and discovers that the promising classical musician studied at New York’s prestigious Julliard School until paranoid schizophrenia assaulted his mind. What started as an attempt to get a few columns worth of material turns into a friendship, as Lopez makes it his personal mission to get Ayers off the street. His poignant columns about Ayers in the Times result in donations of musical instruments and financial aid, but Lopez learns that despite help from others, the mentally ill must first learn to trust. After slowly building a friendship, Lopez establishes communication with Ayers’ estranged sister and seeks professional help for the mentally ill musician in an effort to get him off the dangerous streets of Los Angeles. Every step Ayers takes toward shelter, care, and safety leads to two steps back to Skid Row. In the process, Ayers teaches Lopez not only about music, but also about himself. The Soloist poignantly articulates the themes of lost dreams, friendship, and one man’s power to make a difference.
Indy-Snow More than 1 year ago
It's not as captivating as "Lying Awake" but it was still well written, entertaining, and captivating. A good solid read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was in the library one day and saw the book, after I read it I just knew I had to have my own copy. This book is as touching as it is powerful. If you really think about it everyone had a little bit of Renne in them. Just as though you think you know everything that there is to know about yourself, there comes a book that changes your perspective on the way you view your life and who you are. If you haven't read this book yet I suggest that you do so.