Monday, November 2, 2009

Strange Mr. Satie by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Petra Mathers

Erik Satie, the French avant-garde composer, was a very strange man indeed. Children will be amused to learn about someone who "wrote ballets for parties and music for magical spells" and whose "habits were odd. He wore seven identical gray velvet suits and that was all. He did not take baths, but scraped himself with a piece of stone."

There is speculation that Satie may have been gay, based on his circle of friends. Tomie dePaola's Bonjour Mr. Satie is an older picture book biography that does hint at Satie's possible relationships with men, but Anderson only mentions one romantic interest, artist and model Suzanne Valadon. "She already had a boyfriend, a lawyer, a very rich man. Satie didn't mind. He invited himself along on their dates. The three of them went together: the clever young artist, the penniless musician, and the wealthy young man, who was very, very irritated. When they went to the theatre, Satie hired two boys to walk in front of them, banging drums." I laughed out loud at the illustration for this.

Children may want to hear some of Satie's music after reading the biography. Anderson recommends starting with one of his most famous piano pieces, the Gymnopedies. Grade 1 - 6.

No comments: