I Highly Recommend the Novel Bel Canto

“You love music, eh?” Muhammad asked me in a voice so low that for a second I thought he was a lion. So I, trying very hard to suppress a smile advised him to maybe stop roaring like a lion and instead start talking like the big man that he is. I wasn’t at all surprised when he erupted into a laugh that was reminiscent to a volcanic eruption less of course the ashes and the lava. You see, I’ve known Muhammad for a very long time now and he is the kind of guy who loves to laugh. He somehow finds everything around him to be funny and he makes it his responsibility to laugh at everything that others don’t normally find humorous.

I shall never forget that moment when he asked me the question because at that time he also gave me a magnificent book that completely modified my perception of life, love and music. The book became my most prized possession for the duration of a week, which was the length of time it took me to read the entire novel. I read it while riding a jeepney on my way to the university. I read it in our classroom while waiting for the professor to arrive. I read it on a bench in Burnham Park while my girlfriend sat beside me, obviously jealous that the attention she was supposedly getting was being wasted on a book.

This book I’m referring to is Bel Canto, a novel so well written b y Ann Patchett that it has bagged numerous awards including the Pen Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize. These well-deserved recognitions alone are a true testament to the beauty of Bel Canto.
“Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice-president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening-until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion…and cannot be stopped.”

I remember the night when I finished reading the last chapter. I was in my room digesting the novel’s last words while unread accounting books and unaccomplished homework lay scattered on my desk. I admit this was among the very few times wherein I preferred reading fiction than school textbooks. I have always believed that fiction books are a waste of time. Fortunately, Bel Canto came my way and proved that belief wrong. I came to realize that textbooks merely guide us to the path to the life we wanted to live while fiction tells us exactly how to live that life. Textbooks are nothing but maps. Fictions, on the other hand are the roads we take, the highways we drive through and the road signs we read. In the end, it’s not how we pick the roads that matter. Instead it’s how we ride through them and how hard we burn the tires.

One of Bel Canto’s most enduring mark is it’s honest and in-your-face message of love. Although at times the scenarios border within comedic and sometimes impractical, you wouldn’t care much about them because after all it’s love. And love works that way. It’s comedic, impractical, ridiculous, embarrassing, and unacceptable all at the same time.

Every page of the book is teeming with affection. No, it’s overflowing in fact. This is of course a very good thing because once again a novel has proven the truth that love breaks all boundaries and makes all walls non-existent. It is not impossible for a fish to fall for and marry a bird. Scales and feathers aren’t much of an issue when you are in love.

Love is free. It won’t cost you anything unless of course if you play and mess with it. I messed with love for quite a few times in the past and in the process got some girl’s heart broken. I regret it very much of course but there is nothing that can fix the thing, is there? No. I know because I got my heart broken too by some girl I’ve been with for a few months. We were talking one day when she told me she needed some space. And that completely ended the relationship. I’m not blaming her because before I met her I’m still recovering from telling a girl the same thing. Honestly, I don’t understand the concept behind or what “need some space” means. Whoever invented the expression probably didn’t understand it either.

And music, yes. Who would write about Bel Canto without delving into music, which the novel explores in a very romantic manner? Music sometimes is revolutionary; political but 99% of the time it’s romantic. Anything that is romantic makes people crazy. And I’m one of those people.
One major reason that I’m so drawn into the novel is the fact that I’m a die-hard music enthusiast. Music composes a great slice of my daily life. It’s built into my system. I eat my breakfast while listening to a Coldplay cd. I go to sleep only when my favorite radio dj said good night. And I’m officially a member of the “head phoned people” tribe. This last one brought me into a lot of trouble but I didn’t care. Why should I? I still have my music and am enjoying it with utmost pleasure. Believe me, walking down the street while “Bittersweet Symphony” is playing is the sweetest thing.

The excitement of listening to a brand new song from my favorite artist/artists is priceless. I would close my eyes, turn the volume up and just take in every drum beat, every guitar riff and meticulously memorize the lyrics. A few more replays and I will know the new song by heart.
Imagine a world without music. A world without guitars, without pianos, without Luciano Pavarotti, without “Beautiful Girls”, without MTV. I cannot even imagine it. Coz a world without music is no world at all.