Virtual Event: Jonathan Buckley, "The Great Concert of the Night," with Edwin Frank

July 16, 2020, 7:30 PM

Jonathan Buckley joins us to present his novel, The Great Concert of the Night, in conversation with NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank. This event will take Place on Zoom. Register here:

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David has just spent New Year’s Eve alone, watching Le Grand Concert de la Nuit, a film in which his former lover Imogen starred. In the early hours of the new year, consoled and tormented by her ethereal presence, he begins to write. What follows is a brilliantly various journal, chronicling a year in the life of a thinking man. David works as a curator at the ailing Sanderson-Perceval Museum in southern England, whose small collection of porcelain, musical instruments, crystals, velvet mushrooms, and glass jellyfish is as eccentric and idiosyncratic as the long-dead collectors’ tastes. David himself is a connoisseur of the derelict and nonutilitarian, of objects removed from the flow of time. 

Refusing the imposed order of a straightforward chronology, his journal moves fluidly back and forth in time, filled with fragments of life remembered, imagined, and recorded, from memories of his past life with Imogen or with his ex-wife, Samantha, to reflections on the lives and relics of female saints or the history of medicine. There are quotations from Seneca, Meister Eckhart, and the Goncourt brothers mixed in with the equally compelling imagined words of fictional film directors, actors, and, always, the fascinating Imogen, who is alive now only “in the perpetual present of the sentence.” 

In The Great Concert of the Night, Jonathan Buckley expertly interweaves sexual despair, cultural critique, the plot lines of one man’s quietly brilliant life, and the problems and paradoxes of writing, especially writing about and to the dead.

“Why isn’t Jonathan Buckley better known? His novel of love, death and melancholy comedy, The Great Concert of the Night, is captivating.” —John Banville

JONATHAN BUCKLEY is the author of the novels Ghost MacIndoeSo He Takes the DogNostalgia, and several others. He was the 2015 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award. He lives in Hove, England.

EDWIN FRANK was born in Boulder, Colorado, and educated at Harvard College and Columbia University. He is the author of Snake Train: Poems 1984–2013 and the editorial director of the NYRB Classics series.