Author: Eric Beck Rubin
Format: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC), 240 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: August 23, 2016
Summary from Publisher:
Jan de Vries is a virtuoso pianist who would be in the prime of his career but for the crippling auditory hallucinations that have plundered his performances and his mind. As the disorder reaches its devastating peak the walls Jan has built around him crumble, rendering him unable to repress the overwhelming flood of memories and the troves of unspoken words that linger between him and his childhood best friend, Dirk Noosen, with whom he lost touch long ago. He is faced with only one recourse: to head home and confront him. With a singular voice and a masterful balance of emotional resonance and restraint, Eric Beck Rubin tells the tender story of Jan’s obsessive friendship with the charismatic, irreverent raconteur Dirk as the reader breathlessly awaits their reunion.
This luminous novel is about music, repression and regret; about adolescence, sex and friendship, and, ultimately, about the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.
- From Goodreads
Don’t be misled by the page count of the book, School of Velocity, by Eric Beck Rubin. It may only be about 200 pages, but it’s a substantial read about a character named Jan de Vries, the passion of a young man with a prodigious talent, but a debilitating condition that slowly worsens and haunts his work, compromises his performances, and eventually overwhelms his daily life.
It’s also very much about his deep and all-consuming friendship with Dirk Noosen, a young man he unexpectedly connects with in high school.
Together they form a speculative relationship; one that originates and stems from rivalry and spontaneously moves into a relationship that quickly tests boundaries, and evolves into an active and daily kinship that moves well into adulthood.
The dichotomy between the characters is stark, most likely responsible for the natural chemistry between the pair and their exclusive and unrelenting friendship.
Jan de Vries, a serious, introverted, almost melancholy character is studious, academic, diligent, and exacting—a persevering musician with a natural fortitude towards classical music, which precedes his time, but not his talent.
Dirk Noosen, on the other hand, is a frenetic extrovert, boisterous in attention-seeking, overt and combative in wit, as well as a fast-talking, aggressive risk-taker. At times throughout the novel, Noosen tends to seem like he might suffer from a bipolar disorder, one in which his tendencies often become manic and highly driven.
While the novel is thin in size, it’s not dull. And even though the plot is not highly active in movement, its recourse is in its emotional trail that spans a lifetime.
The emotional turmoil of de Vries’ illness is portrayed as harshly as the cacophony of music played poorly, which for de Vries is unfathomable especially for a musician of his calibre.
Still, his deepest suffering is that which lies underneath the surface of his debilitating condition—the ever-present thoughts and yearning for his friend from youth, Dirk Noosen.
As musical success soars and a new romantic relationship solidifies, his condition worsens, and his absence from his friend becomes almost unbearable.
The narrative in the book attests to this emotional trauma, as does de Vries’ internal dialogue and his ongoing secret disease, which is not only rare, but disturbingly inexplicable.
The polarity in dialogue reinforces Noosen’s frantic excitability, his witty, yet testy statements that successfully showcase a bravado of a man who is either highly confident or secretly insecure. Either way, Noosen reveals himself to be quite the narcissist who is left to unravel the consequences of his choices.
De Vries, on the other hand, is thoughtful to the point of a worrisome brooder. His ambition for musical perfection and repressed gushing sentimentality, makes him a target for severe disappointment, but an unresolved perseverance that provokes him to a place in which he cannot return.
It is a passionate novel that exemplifies the artistry of precision, the devotion of friendship, and the exploration of what it means to love—and how far one will go to abandon oneself to obtain it.
Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars
Dialogue: 3.5 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 3.5 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a copy of School of Velocity in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Eric Beck Rubin is a cultural historian who writes on architecture, literature, and psychology. School of Velocity is Eric’s first foray into fiction, and he is currently at work on a second: a family saga spanning several generations, from pre-World War II Germany to present-day Los Angeles and Western Canada.
- From Goodreads