“If you wish success you must master the American language . . . I can tell in your face that you will not learn it.”

accordioncrimes.jpgBooks on Tap read Accordion Crimes by E. Annie Proulx at Champion Brewery on October 4. Most known for her short stories and The Shipping News, here Proulx examines 20th century American immigration using the conceit of one accordion that passes through the hands of Americans from Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico and African-Americans. Almost all meet a grim death, as does the accordion itself after 100 years. 

We did like the research and detail Proulx included and some of the personal stories. However, it was a very long book without much connective tissue and brutal existences for most of the sprawling cast. We struggled to articulate the overall theme (and identify the crimes), finally landing on the fragility of the hope expressed both in the crafting and playing of the accordion and the American experiment as a whole. 

The highlight of the evening was when Peter Kleeman played his melodeon. He explained the similarities and differences between the melodeon and accordion and how each work. He also told us how the different ethnicities in the book tuned and played the instruments differently. He convinced us that Proulx was clever to make the accordion the main character because it is used so widely. Each group can be familiar with it but use it in ways that would baffle others, just as their choices in America can seem both rational and terrible to the reader. 

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More Information:

About the author 

About the book 

Other works 

Also Mentioned:

The Red Violin (film)

 

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