Longing: A Novel

by LANDIS J D

Random House Publishing Group | November 14, 2008 | Hardcover

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Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. These brilliant and complex people enrich this sweeping story of a love that could not be denied. Set amid an enthralling rich era with creative genius, Longing explores the nature and danger of passion with precision, sympathy, and wisdom. J. D. Landis has encompassed madness, genius, and passion that propelled characters, and he re-creates their lives with surpassing depth, wit, and intelligence. . . .

Format: Hardcover

Published: November 14, 2008

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345447212

ISBN - 13: 9780345447210

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– More About This Product –

Longing: A Novel

by LANDIS J D

Format: Hardcover

Published: November 14, 2008

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345447212

ISBN - 13: 9780345447210

Read from the Book

The Secret Listeners Zwickau June 8, 1810 Between end and beginning there will be chaos. Metternich On the day Robert Schumann was born in this formerly peaceful, formerly populous Saxon town on the left bank of the River Mulde, the loudest cries were not those of his mother, Christiane, being delivered of her sixth child. Her screams were eclipsed by those of her remaining neighbors, some of whom lined the streets and some of whom stood in their windows and all of whom screamed with even more passion and certainly less pain than Christiane Schumann. For who should be riding through town on his way across sweet Saxony, which hung like a plumped penis from the groin of Prussia, but the Emperor Napoleon (who could be heard gaily singing the aria “Gia il sol” from Paisiello’s Nina) and his brand-new, politically correct, lobster-and-sour-cream-ravening eighteen-year-old bride, Marie Louise of Austria, his second choice as a broodmare after he had been embarrassingly rejected by ripe Russian Anna, the fifteen-year-old sister of Czar Alexander. Napoleon had occupied Marie Louise’s country, as he was soon to remove his Léger-tailored suit to occupy Marie Louise herself (with—finally!—an heir, the future King of Rome), and had installed the cunning, ruthless, altogether magnificent Metternich as Chief Minister and Marriage Broker at the same time he disinstalled his own creamily Creole Empress Josephine, though he would never, nor would he wa
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From the Publisher

Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. These brilliant and complex people enrich this sweeping story of a love that could not be denied. Set amid an enthralling rich era with creative genius, Longing explores the nature and danger of passion with precision, sympathy, and wisdom. J. D. Landis has encompassed madness, genius, and passion that propelled characters, and he re-creates their lives with surpassing depth, wit, and intelligence. . . .

From the Jacket

Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. These brilliant and complex people enrich this sweeping story of a love that could not be denied. Set amid an enthralling rich era with creative genius, Longing explores the nature and danger of passion with precision, sympathy, and wisdom. J. D. Landis has encompassed madness, genius, and passion that propelled characters, and he re-creates their lives with surpassing depth, wit, and intelligence. . . .

About the Author

J. D. Landis lives in New Hampshire. His previous novel, Lying in Bed, received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Editorial Reviews

"Richly conveys both the joy and the sorrow of [an] extraordinary love story . . . In a lush, sinuous style . . . Landis draws us into a world at once turbulent and dazzling." --Los Angeles Times "YOU DON''T HAVE TO LIKE CLASSICAL MUSIC TO SAVOR THIS EXQUISITE NOVEL. . . . LANDIS MAKES MUSIC SPEAK AND WORDS SING IN THIS WINNING OPUS." --Glamour "[A] PENETRATING FICTIONAL BIOGRAPHY . . . Landis tells us that [the Schumanns''] marriage was vivid, full of humor, vitality, and a great hunger for music. . . . Landis has seamlessly interwoven his text with ideas (about language and music, genius, imagination and the nature of human devotion) that are very much his own. . . . It is almost as if Landis himself were conducting a score, with the two characters his human instruments." --The New York Times Book Review "[LANDIS] BRINGS THESE FASCINATING GENIUSES TO VIVID LIFE. . . . It''s hard to know what is more admirable, Mr. Landis''s erudition or the liveliness of his imagination. . . . Part of the pleasure in reading the novel is seeing artists and writers such as Goethe, Chopin, Heine, Paganini, and Brahms inhabiting the Schumanns'' world as men, not as names in a syllabus. . . . Landis''s novel is pervaded with vitality." --The Wall Street Journal "[A] CAREFULLY RESEARCHED, WONDERFULLY ENJOYABLE, AND DELECTABLY OLD-FASHIONED BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL that is as passionate and flamboyant as the main characters. . . . This evocative recreation o
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Bookclub Guide

1. The author's note reads, in its entirety, "The epigraphs are archival. The characters are historical. The dates of events and correspondence are, when verifiable, authentic. The rest is fiction masquerading as fact, and the reverse." What does he mean by this, and what does the last sentence suggest?

2. The epigraph to the novel's Prologue reads, " 'If you want to penetrate the mind of an artist, you must visit him in his studio.' Robert Schumann." In this case, the artist's studio, however, was an insane asylum. What does this suggest? Is the juxtaposition here merely ironic, or does the author posit a direct relation and even an equation of the two?

3. In what ways does this novel rely on local color and period costume? How crucial is the European setting and the nineteenth century Romantic mentality to the feel and flavor of the whole? Would it make sense in a contemporary context? What would have to change?

4. Imagine a present-day version of their story: Elvis Presley with a child-bride, Madonna with her husband, and see in what ways the plot-lines are similar. Take the proposition that Robert and Clara were rock stars of the Romantic period and agree or disagree. In what ways does Romanticism survive in today's culture?

5. Can you think of other books about musicians (Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus, Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, etc.) or other historical figures to which Longing can be fruitfully compared?

6. Consider the motives of Friedrich Wieck. In some sense he was correct to have opposed the marriage, since it brought his daughter to poverty's edge as well as the edge of despair. Try to justify his behavior in terms of paternal responsibility, then take the opposite side--almost as though in a law court--and argue that his behavior was misguided if not malign. Reach a verdict: should the romance have been prevented or the preventor have been stopped?

7. Since the book and its main characters, as well as the historical record, suggest this marriage could not in fact have been stopped, discuss the role of fate and love-at-first-sight. Shakespeare called Romeo and Juliet "star-crossed lovers." How does this apply to Robert and Clara, the actual as opposed to the imagined pair?

8. In a note to this interviewer, J.D. Landis writes, "In one finished draft, this novel consisted of three main parts, so I thought I might pass it off structurally as a kind of concerto. In a later finished draft, it had become four parts, so I thought I might pass it off as a kind of symphony. It was at that point that I even called the Prologue a Prelude and the Epilogue a Coda. Finally, when it became the present five parts, I came to my senses and dropped the pretense that my structure was consciously musical. It wasn't and isn't. This is a book." Find ways in which the author uses devices exclusive to fiction--descriptive prose, flashback and flash-forward, etc.--to support this claim.

9. Find some of Schumann's piano music alluded to in the novel, (Kinderscenen, Fantasie, Carnaval) and listen and discuss. How do the two forms of expression, language and music, the language of music, interconnect if at all? Does Clara Schumann's piano trio have anything literal to do with the romantic triangle in which she found herself ?

10. Imagine Longing as a play, an opera, or a TV series. What would be gained and what lost?

11. Exercises: Write a love letter from Robert to Clara, an answer from Clara to Robert. Write a passage in their marriage journal describing (a) their first night of married love, (b) the birth of their first child, and, (c) the decision to send Robert off to Endenich.

12. Because of the limited point-of-view, we cannot know what Schumann does not know about what goes on between Clara and Brahms. Imagine a scene in which the two of them (a) become lovers, or, (b) decide not to. Which scene do you think is more probable, and why?

13. During the years of Schumann's incarceration in Endenich, Clara distanced herself from her husband. Why do you think she chose to stay away?

14. When Robert Schumann is asked in the novel whether he wants to be popular as an artist, he responds that he might, but "I just don't want to have to write popular work." Is it an artist's job to please first his audience or himself ? What differences, if any, are there between artists and entertainers? What did one of Liszt's biographers mean when she wrote, "Romanticism did not survive by virtue of having created artifacts acceptable to the masses (which would have de-stroyed it) but because it didn't"?

15. Imagine you could bring one--and only one--of the major characters here (Robert or Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms) into your own family. Which would you select?

16. Why would the author have made Part Four of Longing, Marriage, one of its shortest sections? Why is it the only part of the novel not strictly chronological? Indeed, why does it end with the Schumanns' wedding night? Discuss also the role of the kind of memory mentioned on the first page of "Marriage: An Interlude."

17. The art historian Anna Jameson called all artists "like children-- essentially immature." Eugenie Schumann wrote of her father that he was "the biggest child of all." Did Robert Schumann ever really grow up? Why did he remain behind in Maxen and allow his pregnant wife to return to a war-torn Dresden to retrieve their children? Are artists necessarily self-centered, and, if so, can their work ever justify their behavior?

18. Transpose any of these scenes into the first person--from Robert's point-of-view, from Clara's, from Mendelssohn's, etc. What changes and what stays the same?

19. These were nineteen questions. Formulate twenty more.

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