Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Soloist

Yes, I realize that this is a fiction blog, but hey, I reserve the right to break the rules once in a while (meaning anytime I feel like it). So do yourself a favor and read this: The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez. In 2005, Lopez, a journalist for the L. A. Times, saw a homeless man playing a battered violin in downtown Los Angeles. This man turned out to be Nathaniel Ayers (above), a 55-year-old music virtuoso who during the early seventies was a promising young student at Juilliard (and who even shared student-orchestra duties with then-classmate Yo-Yo Ma). However, his musical dreams were shattered when he was forced to leave Juilliard after suffering a mental breakdown. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Ayers drifted in and out of treatment and took to wandering the streets of his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. After the death of his mother in 2000, he made his way to Los Angeles hoping to find his father and wound up living on the streets instead, where five years later he would cross paths with Lopez. A series of widely popular newspaper columns, and more importantly, a friendship, was born out of their meeting, and Lopez took it upon himself to do whatever he could to help Ayers get off the streets and into treatment.

Want more? Read the book. Or if written words make your head hurt, go see the movie: The Soloist is coming to the big screen in April.

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