Cover image for One finger too many
One finger too many
Brendel, Alfred.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [1998]

Physical Description:
68 pages ; 21 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PT2662.R446 O54 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This deceptively slight volume is proof that not only good but excellent things often come in small packages. A master of the piano, Alfred Brendel here turns in a deft performance as poet, building fantastic little "word machines" of extraordinary tensile strength. We are drawn immediately into a fun-house world of suspicious but wondrous goings-on: The supernumerary index finger of the pianist in the title poem, we're told, sometimes pointed out "an obstinate cougher in the hall/or emerged from beneath his tailcoat/beckoning a lady in the third row." Elsewhere, Beethoven, disguised as Salieri, poisons a sleeping Mozart and skulks away clutching, forever, Mozart's greatest possession--the key of C minor. And the conceptual artist Christo wraps the Three Tenors on the balcony of La Scala. These constantly surprising poems enchant even as they sting, revealing the light (and dark) side of Alfred Brendel, one of the world's greatest musicians. His followers will have to have this book, but so will anyone who enjoys readable poetry touched by a divine madness.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

One of the world's finest concert pianists is also a delightful, humorous poet. His little, mostly short-lined, free-verse rambles reflect his middle-European origins (Brendel is Austrian, though long resident in London) by being weirdly fantastic, in the manner of Hoffmann, Gogol, and Capek. A pianist is bedeviled in concert by a roving third index finger. Skeptics arriving in heaven admit "a tinge of regret" at all the deaf hearing, lame running, etc., while they, as always, "stay powerless." The bearded and the beardless have a war, the former force-pasting hair on the latter and the latter attack-shaving the former. Not Salieri but Beethoven disguised as Salieri kills Mozart in order to steal the key of C minor. Those situations are actually more bizarre than the descriptions indicate, and the other poems, even when less dramatic, are as strange and wonderful. Many contain musical references--they are a musician's poems, after all--but amuse even if one doesn't get all of them. Bravo, Herr Brendel! Encore! (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0375502939Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

Music lovers will be familiar with Brendel as a world-renowned pianist and recording artist. They may also be familiar with his essays and lectures on musical subjects, in which he has been known to ask, "Must Classical Music Be Entirely Serious?" and in which he lists "laughing" as his favorite occupation. He singles out the cartoons of Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, and Gary Larson as favorite minor muses, and so it is not surprising that this most recent foray into poetry is a winsome m‚lange of unfettered whimsy and gnomic wit. Perhaps the flavor of this slender volume is best captured by a poem in which a Dadaist looks in the mirror to see "some fetching contradictions/ himself and his opposite," "tomfoolery and method," "sense within nonsense," "anarchy and poise," "Beethoven mustachioed, [and]...even little Jesus...with his tongue stuck out of course." One other stylistic contradiction perhaps should be mentioned: the sheer readable fun of these verses packaging powerful, if enigmatic, truths. Recommended for all public libraries.ÄThomas F. Merrill, Univ. of Delaware, Newark (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.