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Speaking of Bergman's Book


Someone who sent me a private email wrote:
>Yes, Birgitte, but Glenn Gould didn't have feminine breasts, much less
>silicon ones. If he did, however, I sure people would still be more
>interested in HIS brain.

Right, my point precisely, that not everyone can claim their most vital
asset is their brain, in which case Andrew Kazdin was not merely stating the
obvious. Put another way, if Ms. Anderson ever suffers a stroke (and I
sincerely hope she does not), it may be far less detrimental to her career
than the long-term effects of gravity. I happen to agree with Kazdin that
Glenn Gould had much to lose in the cerebral department and therefore, it
was indeed ironic that he should be silenced by the organic collapse of his
brain functions. The voluble brain of Marshall McLuhan suffered a similarly
ironic, though protracted, fate. Nature will eventually have its way with
all of us, and yet even for those who live an active life of the mind, a
life-threatening stroke-induced coma is one situation we cannot think our
way out of, since to do so would resolve a paradox.


I am elated that Anne M. Marble has acknowledged Rhona Bergman?s
contribution to Gouldian literature, having just read "The Idea of Gould"
last week. Given that it was published by a very small house, it is unlikely
to be considered by the likes of the New York Times Book Review, but it
should nevertheless be highly recommended reading for anyone interested in
the nature of human response to Gould?s music.

Although Bergman is a nurse and not a professional journalist, unlike Otto
Friedrich, and despite the fact that her book could have benefited from more
judicious proofreading, it simply teems with insight. Her theory, for
example, about Gould?s dependence on prescription drugs is both
compassionate and soberly clinical. It is a humane book touched with grace
yet one of considerable scholarly relevance. Without crossing the line into
invasion of privacy, she managed to extract from her interview subjects
information which was enlightening in ways that Friedrich?s otherwise
competent but somewhat prosaic book did not attempt to uncover. Perhaps this
is to be expected in an "official bio" but although Friedrich?s book is
commendable and invaluable in many ways (somewhat like Carlos Baker?s
uber-bio of Hemingway), I believe he was not the ideal choice for "official"
biographer. I do not wish this to be regarded as the chant of a
chest-thumping nationalist, but I think in this case a Canadian would have
been a more appropriate candidate, perhaps someone like Robert Fulford, who
might have a more intimate grasp of Gould?s cultural and historical milieu.
"The Canadianness of Gould" is a vital component that has thus far been
underexplored and should have played a bigger part in the official bio.

For this reason alone Bergman?s book would be worthy of the highest regard
because she was not content to merely retread well-worn paths and
interviewed many people who have been entirely overlooked in other
biographical materials. (It can only be regarded as our loss that she was
unable to interview Gould's father or Jessie Greig.) But she did much more
than that: as a "non-professional" she took a great many risks in exposing
her own biases and in fearlessly exploring her emotions with regard to the
profound ways in which Gould?s music and ideas affected her. (Some of the
most touching passages in Friedrich?s book were those in which he dared to
inject a little of himself into the proceedings, not so much that he
obscured his subject, but just enough to show us that even an official
history is but a selective narrative of inclusions and omissions, a personal
blend of facts and interpretations.) In addition to being intellectually
stimulating, Bergman?s book is an exceptionally brave and heartfelt work. I
give an ovation to her effort and hope she has sold many copies of her book.

A sociological reading of Rhona Bergman?s text underscores a gender bias I
have noted in my brief experience on this list: that there is a distinct
tendency (I repeat TENDENCY) for female contributors to ponder the
philosophy and meaning of Gould?s music ("the idea of Gould," if you like)
in terms of its metaphysics and therapeutic bearings while the male
contributions tend to concentrate on the dissection and scrutiny of the
technical details, plotting the linear representation of the instruments and
recording techniques, thereby begetting "the graph of Gould." Interesting.

Allow me to fend off an anticipated hail of protest from you sensitive guys
out there (and how could any cuddly, self-respecting Britney Spears fan not
be squishy?) by acknowledging Joerg?s ravishing analysis of his response to
Gould?s musicianship:

"Listening - no - meditating on GG´s The Art of Fugue No.14 (unfinished)
with it´s deep and incredible intensiv expression and abrupt ending causes a
"therapeutic" effect in a way, that I calm down, feel my pulse, feeling -
being alive in world of miracles, touched by a cosmic spirit and whisdom
that is not apart from me. The abrupt ending in the context with the death
of my beloved Bach and Gould (a few month later) guides me to my own ending
and it´s own miracles......"

I don?t think Rhona Bergman could have said it better.

Birgitte Jorgensen