National Book Award Longlist
New York Times “Editors’ Choice” selection
Poets & Writers “Page One” selection
“Uncommon and genre-defying.” —Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times
“Incandescent.” —Kat Chow, New York Times Book Review
“Hodges considers the elemental truth pulsating beneath our experience of music and of our very lives.” —Maria Popova, Marginalian
“With carefully wrought lyricism, Hodges provides music history and mature insight.” —Martha Anne Toll, Electric Literature
“This is one those rare books that inspires one to go back time and again to re-read a sentence simply because of the elegance and penetrating insight with which it is written. . . . Unputdownable.” —Julian Haylock, The Strad
“Korean American violinist Hodges debuts with a literary mosaic of invention, inquiry, and wonder that interrogates classical music, quantum entanglement, the Tiger Mother stereotype, and the fluidity of time. . . . In restrained yet lyrical prose, Hodges . . . offer[s] a luminous meditation on the ways in which art, freedom, and identity intertwine. This impresses at every turn.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Masterful. . . . [Hodges’s] writing is deeply intelligent and exquisitely personal, expertly balancing emotional vulnerability with trenchant analysis, and her lyrical prose and clarity of thought render each page a pleasure to read.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Bridge[s] the time-space continuum in musical terms. . . . A book to savor.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“A dazzling look at memory and the universe. . . . Hodges ponders these puzzles with intellectual depth, unique perspectives, and an artistic, eloquent, and inspiring voice.” —Booklist
“Poignant. . . . [Uncommon Measure] makes a valuable contribution to the ever-expanding universe of works addressing science and music.” —Library Journal
“Natalie Hodges is a musician with a poet’s soul and a writer with a musician’s heart. Her prose partita, Uncommon Measure, is an extraordinary translation of music, devotion, and sorrow into the literary, recounting her relinquishment of a performance career and her continued love of music. In these pages, if no longer on the stage, she is brilliantly making us hear.” —Susan Faludi, author of Backlash and In the Darkroom
“Uncommon Measure is astonishingly assured and inventive. Mixing personal reflection, reportage, literary criticism, music theory, neurology, even evolutionary studies, Hodges has pulled off something singular and wonderful. From the first page to the last, the book rides on the high wire of Hodges’s virtuosic voice. It is shot through with a sinuous, luminous energy.” —Darcy Frey, author of The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams
“There is not a sentence in Hodges’s Uncommon Measure that does not illumine, not a single insight that doesn’t lead on to a still greater one, not a moment that does not open us to wonder. In searching and visionary prose, Hodges comes close to creating a new language, one of continual questioning and delight. This is an exquisite book to be read and reread, a treasure.” —Richard Hoffman, author of Half the House and Love & Fury
“Hodges is a new, valuable voice in the world of music making and music writing. She moves with elegance from her own experience as a violinist to the scientific underpinnings of her subject: from math, physics, and neurology to quantum mechanics, biology, and entanglement theory. Uncommon Measure is a welcome debut from a wonderfully talented writer.” —Annik LaFarge, author of Chasing Chopin
A masterful debut memoir from a classical violinist that covers far more than just music.
“If you want to change the past,” writes Hodges, “all you have to do is try to record what happened in it.” So begins this memoir in essays in which the author excavates her personal history in order to come to terms with her complex relationship with the violin. From an early age, she dreamed of becoming a violin soloist, practicing for hours each day as a child. Hodges traces her love of music to her Korean American mother, who played violin in high school until her punishing schedule made it impossible to continue. In contrast, the author’s White father disparaged her passion, a tactic that backfired: Hodges now believes that the possibility of defying his hatred of music is part of what spurred her on for so many years. Throughout the collection, Hodges chronicles how her father’s abuse, her mother’s experiences of racism, and her own intense stage fright ended her professional aspirations but could not sway her love of music. That love led her to attempt everything from campus tango lessons to teaching herself an incredibly challenging piece of music four months after putting away her violin. Hodges interweaves these memories with concepts of quantum physics, focusing on theories about time and space that elegantly illustrate the inability she often felt to be present in her own life. “Music itself embodies time,” she writes, “shaping our sense of its passage through patterns of rhythm and harmony, melody and form. We feel that embodiment whenever we witness an orchestra’s collective sway and sigh to the movement of a baton, or measure a long car ride by the playlist of songs we’ve run through.” The author’s writing is deeply intelligent and exquisitely personal, expertly balancing emotional vulnerability with trenchant analysis, and her lyrical prose and clarity of thought render each page a pleasure to read.
A gorgeously written, profoundly felt essay collection about time, memory, and music.