WHAT COULD BE SAVED: BOOKMATCHED NOVELLAS AND STORIES
BY GREGORY SPATZ
Tupelo Press 9781946482174. 226 pp., www.tupelopress.org.
For readers of this magazine, Greg Spatz is mostly known for his recordings and performances as the two-decades-long fiddler for John Reischman & The Jaybirds. In his day job (which he works at night as well), he’s a writer of six highly praised books of fiction and is also the director of Eastern Washington University’s MFA program in Spokane.
It’s rare for this magazine to review works of fiction, but this is a notable exception in that Greg is not only a well-regarded bluegrass artist, but this newest book of his centers around the world of violin making. The subtitle uses the word “bookmatched,” which means something like how the grain and flames of the wood on the back of a fiddle are made symmetrical along the spine like a book. These stories are bookmatched in that they mirror one another in the deeper themes and shared experiences of the violin world, its players, and luthiers.
These are engaging, moving stories. Spatz’s writing—like the best songwriting—is both familiar and surprising. The worlds he creates are true. They have heft and balance, but each is unique and strange enough to keep you holding it in your hands, turning the pages over in sheer pleasure. I admit to reading these stories out of order, but I found myself wanting to re-read them in yet another order to savor them something like a playlist, going back to stories after living with them for a while.
Few writers today have the authority, compassion and clear-eyed talent for conjuring the world of music with its generations of dreamers, hucksters, and geniuses (failed and successful). Greg Spatz pulls it off in a way that makes you fall in love with that world, if not for the first time, then somehow again. Highly recommended.CVS