Madison Smartt Bell: The Year of Silence
The book opens with Tom Larkin. He is the brother of Clarence Larkin, late of Waiting for the End of the World. Like his brother, he is a piano virtuoso. After Clarence’s death, he returned from Europe and has tried to find his brother’s body but without success. Now a year later, he spends his mornings playing the Goldberg Variations but he is not playing on a piano but on a keyboard carved on a plank, as he has taken a vow of silence since his brother’s death. He shares a room with Weber. We learn that Weber has been a bit queer since his girlfriend died about a year ago. Apart from being somewhat taciturn and being a karate fanatic, Weber seems relatively normal till he climbs up to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, not to kill himself, but, as he says, to affirm life. But this is just a lead-in to what this book is – a series of interconnected stories about the girlfriend – Marian – who killed herself by taking an overdose of pills. Each story gives the perspective of the various people who knew Marian, though some only by sight, and how her death affected them. Bell’s point, if there is one, is about how a big city like New York can be incredibly lonely and Marian can be incredibly lonely, despite her friend and cousin, Gwen, despite Jocko, the dwarf whom she befriends and despite Weber with whom she can never really connect.
First published 1987 by Ticknor & Fields