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A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano Hardcover – June 10, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 167 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This evocative, detailed account of the compulsive search for a sensitive, highly responsive concert piano by Canadian musical wunderkind Glenn Gould combines the parallel histories of one of the most controversial and brilliant pianists of the last century and the incredible keyboard instrument on which he played for some of his most important recordings. Hafner, a New York Times correspondent, presents a fascinating biography of Gould, who was known for his quirks, including his wearing of winter gear on summer days, his donning of fingerless gloves while playing, his manic fear of germs and hand shaking. The book will greatly appeal to those intrigued by the history of the influential German-bred Steinway piano company, but it is the close interaction of Gould and Charles Verne Edquist, the nearly blind piano tuner, with a Steinway CD 318 concert piano, that lift the book above the usual biography. This book will aid the reader to fully appreciate Gould's creative work in interpreting the early sonatas of Mozart and his majestic rendition of the Goldberg Variations. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"More books will be written about the famously eccentric pianist Glenn Gould. Perhaps none will be as intriguing as Hafner’s....Hafner gives us a book as rich and engrossing as the finest novel." –Booklist

"Hafner, in writing an entire book on such a narrow subject, reveals herself as an extraordinary storyteller...A book for Gould fans, piano lovers, and those who enjoy an unusual tale well told. Highly recommended." –Library Journal

“The musical version of Seabiscuit....Lucidly grasp[s] the essential: the complex interaction among an artist, a craftsman and the precious tool they both revered. Written with authority and enthusiasm, a treat for armchair musicologists, Gould fanatics and even those who never heard a note he played.” —Kirkus Reviews

"This book is about the oldest human intoxicant, the quest for perfection. Katie Hafner describes in fascinating detail the entire human apparatus—teachers, tuners, piano builders, sound engineers, impresarios—that made possible Glenn Gould's singular art. With the narrative force of fiction she explores the uncertain territory where unbridled artistic imagination meets the limits of an instrument, and shows us the emotional costs.” —Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank


“This evocative, detailed account of the compulsive search for a sensitive, highly responsive concert piano by Canadian musical wunderkind Glenn Gould combines the parallel histories of one of the most controversial and brilliant pianists of the last century and the incredible keyboard instrument on which he played for some of his most important recordings. Hafner, a New York Times correspondent, presents a fascinating biography of Gould, who was known for his quirks, including his wearing of winter gear on summer days, his donning of fingerless gloves while playing, his manic fear of germs and hand shaking. The book will greatly appeal to those intrigued by the history of the influential German-bred Steinway piano company, but it is the close interaction of Gould and Charles Verne Edquist, the nearly blind piano tuner, with a Steinway CD 318 concert piano, that lift the book above the usual biography. This book will aid the reader to fully appreciate Gould's creative work in interpreting the early sonatas of Mozart and his majestic rendition of the Goldberg Variations.”—
Publishers Weekly
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1596915242
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1596915244
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.16 x 0.99 x 8.12 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 167 ratings

About the author

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Katie Hafner was born in Rochester, New York, and has lived in more cities, towns and hamlets than she cares to count. She started writing about technology in 1983, the year the Apple Lisa was introduced. For nearly a decade, she wrote about technology for the The New York Times's Circuits section. She currently writes on healthcare topics for the paper's Science section.

She has also written for Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Esquire, Wired, The New Republic, the Huffington Post and O Magazine. Her sixth book, Mother Daughter Me, a memoir, was published by Random House in July 2013. Her first novel, The Boys, is due out from Spiegel & Grau in July 2022.

Hafner is host and co-executive producer of the podcasts Lost Women of Science and Our Mothers Ourselves. (Photo credit: Christopher Michel)

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
167 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 11, 2022
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 3, 2008
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 21, 2010
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Top reviews from other countries

D. Eastwood
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST FOR GOULD/ GRAND PIANO / STEINWAY FANS AND NEW COMERS ALIKE
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on October 20, 2017
Chris from Okey
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely absorbing...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on April 15, 2018
2 people found this helpful
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Paul Haynes
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book, even if you're not into music or pianos
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on October 7, 2010
9 people found this helpful
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J. Woodman
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for Gould groupies
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on September 13, 2012
One person found this helpful
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j.gill
5.0 out of 5 stars CD318 versus Glenn Gould
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on September 28, 2017