The Soloistby Lopez, Steve
One day Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez comes across a black man playing a beat-up violin remarkably well near Skid Row. Always on the lookout for something to write about, Lopez asks him if this spot is where he usually plays and when the man replies affirmatively, Lopez says he’ll be back. After learning that Nathanial Ayers attended Juilliard, Lopez pieces together his life from his childhood in Cleveland, his mental breakdown after a couple of years at Juilliard and his many years living on the streets, surviving through his love of music. Lopez talks to several psychologists to see how Nathanial can be helped and though Ayers takes some steps to improve his life, there are setbacks as well. Lopez wants to “save” Nathanial but must learn to accept the fact that he may never be “normal.” Both men gain much from this “unlikely friendship” with Lopez acknowledging that his life has probably changed more than Ayers.
This touching story puts a face on the many living on the streets and though most may not have the dramatic backstory that Nathanial does, they all have families and loved ones. Lopez relates the difficulties of helping such a person and both the good and bad times he and Nathanial have together. He also talks about the generosity of others who donated instruments and the professional musicians who befriended Nathanial, recognizing in him a fellow musician. Unfortunately, it also points out our need to do so much more for those forgotten by society.
Reviewed by ch, 9/08. Other reviews by ch. Have you read this book? Tell us what you think!