The Michigan Daily
Friday, December 5, 1986
A Certain Mr.
By Anne Ireland
A Certain Mr. Takahashi, by
Anne Ireland, won Canada's 1985
Seal First Novel Award. It is an
enjoyable, quick read with some
surprising twists of plot and
interesting ideas but it deosn't seem
to deserve any prizes.
The action is divided into
alternating time frames- the reun -
ion of 22-year-old Jean, her older
sister, Colette, and their parents
after a two year separation, and the
sisters' adolescence when they were
obsessed with a certain Mr.
Takahashi, their neighbor and a
world-famous pianist. The two
stories heighten the suspense of the
unfolding tale of the girls'
involvment with Takahashi and
show how that relationship influ -
ences their current emotions.
But the best part of the novel is
Jean and Colette's realization that
they must give up their sisterly
interchangeability for two separate,
mature lives does not need guess-
what-happens-next suspense to hold
the reader nor blatant contrast to
show its repercussions .
The sisters' relationship with the
pianist begins with giggles and
piano-shaped cakes and progresses
as the girls grow up to a conclusion
which is inevitable but unexpected
in its circumstances.
Interesting action and under -
standable feelings are the elements
of a good story and these qualities
are apparent in the book. But
Ireland adds chapters in Jean's
present tense narration of her
parents' weekend reunion party
which seem unnecessary. A main
feature of these sections is a
"secret" which is constantly men -
tioned but not revealed until an
announcement at the climactic
banquet. It is definitely not worth.
the wait and doesn't fit in the
context of the young girls' story.
(But the banquet does contain an
interesting scene involving an
amorous couple and an unstable
These chapters only temper the
poinancy of the Jean-Colette-
Takahashi triangle but they do not
interfere with the fast-paced story
and writing. If anything, they draw
the reader in with the desire to find
out what Jean's coded thoughts
mean.Why is the unexpected sight
of her sister and Takahashi dancing
at CBGB's so paralyzing that she
gives up playing the cello? What
makes it impossible for her to tell
Colette that she saw her in New
York? These questions keep the
reader turning pages and while
learning the sisters' secret he comes
to understand the difficulties of
sharing a secret life and finally
letting it go.
If you've ever had a friend so
close you couldn't imagine exper -
iencing anything fully without
them and you have few free hours,
A Certain Mr. Takahashi is a
worthwhile Christmas break
paperback. -Liz Goodwin
plays the Ark
By Jeff Stanzler
For those people fortunate
enough to be acquainted with the
music of Ralph Stanley, tonight is
cause for celebration: Stanley and
his Clinch Mountain Boys are at
the Ark tonight for two shows
(7:30 and 10 p.m.). For the rest of
you, be advised that Ralph Stanley
is a special performer- you ought
to treat yourself and see him.
Ralph Stanley is one of the
foremost practitioners of bluegrass
music, a style that evolved out of
string band and mountain music
traditions by way of one Bill
Monroe, a Kentucky-born mando -
linist who is credited as being "the
father of bluegrass." Now, what
exactly is bluegrass?
Well, the basics of traditional-
style bluegrass are as follows: 1)
The use of the banjo and fiddle as
the main solo instruments; 2) Hard-
edged, driving rhythms usually fired.
by the banjo or mandolin; 3) Use of
the upright string bass; 4) High-
pitched lead and harmony vocals; 5)
No electric instruments allowed.
These five elements (ideally)
crystallize into the so-called "high
lonesome sound," a mixture of
celebration and longing that can be
spellbinding, and is altogether
impossible to adequately describe
save by experiencing it.
Now, meet bluegrass at its best.
Ralph Stanley has been playing
this music professionally for forty
years now and his skill as a
musician reflects it. But Stanley is
also possessed of a voice, an aching
tenor whose beauty and raw
spirituality are wonders to behold.
The feeling his singing gives is
palpably chilling, one that stim -
ulates the mind and senses, yet is
not of the intellect - it is truly of
the soul. With his Clinch Moun -
tain Boys in tow (Jack
Coore-bass, Sammy Aduins -
guitar, vocals, Curly Ray Cline -
fiddle, Junior Blankenship -
guitar, Stanley - banjo, lead
vocals) Stanley is a force to be
By way of distinguishing
bluegrass from other styles, Ralph
Stanley says that bluegrass (he
actually describes his sound as "old-
time mountain bluegrass") is "just
more of a down to earth music." I
wouldn't argue. I would simply add
that there is also an other-worldly
quality to Ralph Stanley's music,
and that the tension between the
elemental and the spiritual un -
leashes an emotional energy that
should be heard and seen.
GREAT LAKES FUTON
205 M. MAIM - ANN ARBOR, M! 48104 - (313) 663-2202
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Thinir Ahnit Chnrino-