The Soloist

ISBN: 0679759263
ISBN 13: 9780679759263
By: Mark Salzman

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Reader's Thoughts

KJ Lipkey

I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could. I liked the writing style and the glimpse into the culture and life of a classical musician was very interesting. On the other hand at the end I thought to myself, "What was the whole point?" If that sounds harsh I didn't mean it to be - I just didn't get what the whole court room story had to do with anything. It was like going out to a bar and knowing your friend's life (good, interesting) and they start telling you about something that happened to them that day; as in, "Oh dude! This jackass pulled in front off me when I was turning left off of Main Street getting on to Riverfront Drive. What a dick! Here's a play-by-play...." You don't mind hearing the story but to write a book about it? If I came across something else written by him I'd probably give it a go but I'm not going to actively search for it.

Grace Mudrick

I wanted a different ending ...... It was too happy happy tied with a bow for me.

Pamela Schoenewaldt

I loved Salzman's Iron and Silk and was intrigued to read a first person fiction. Not being a musician, I enjoyed vicariously seeing and thinking as a musician. There is a fundamental down factor in a book about a failed prodigy which I feel that Salzman struggles against. It's hard to want to identify with someone who identifies himself as a failure. Yet the protagonist's honesty and modesty, his earnest work for his young student were compelling and very deftly we are drawn into the ethical and legal issue raised by the murder case which Rennee must judge. The upward movement at the end redeems this gentle drama of a good man, a former genius, finding himself.


Had a great start but in the middle left me open and didn't close very well.

Paul Mullen

Music. Los Angeles. Mental Health. Homelessness. Journalism. Politics. Hope. Frustration.A well-written account of a journalist's encounter with a homeless ex-prodigy on the streets of Los Angeles. If you're looking for suspense in a story, you won't find it here. It is predictable in all but the exact details. But it can stimulate some terrific conversations about many topics. Find someone else who has read it and strike up a conversation.


April Fools - You read the wrong book!I thought I was checking out The Soloist (by Steve Lopez) which is the book in common for Chico this year. However, there are two books with this title. Salzman's book is fiction; however the subtitle for Lopez's book also apply: failed dreams, unlikely friendship and the redemptive power of music can all be found in this book. Both books also take place in L.A. An enjoyable read; but a bit too contrived to feel really satisfying. I kept having a nagging question as I read this: How is this book worthy of being a book in common? It just didn't have enough "meat". Now I'll read the other book titled The Soloist.

Stephen Gallup

It's not surprising that some of the other reviewers don't like this story's melancholy, brooding narrator. However, the point is that he's wrestling with some big issues, trying to make sense of the unexpected direction his life has taken. I'm a kindred spirit and identified with him very closely.Salzman seems to have strong feelings about how kids should be educated. It was a subtheme in his memoir Lost in Place , and is more obvious here. We can only speculate whether Renne might have been more successful had he been allowed to have a normal childhood, instead of being kept away from other kids in order to concentrate on music. But this is suggested by the sharp contrast between him and Yo-Yo Ma, who makes an appearance early on in the narrative, and who, we are told, did have more balance in his early life.At any rate, attempting to understand what went wrong is the first step toward finding a new path. The Korean kid who comes to Renne for music lessons provides an opportunity for him to attempt to point another life in the right direction. (And that kid's family provides some much-needed comic relief.) I'll have to read it again before I fully understand the function of his jury service and short relationship with the woman who is so fundamentally different from himself. In this reading, the main effect of the trial was to cement my determination never to serve on a jury again. (I've been through what's described here four times, which is more than enough.)Given where he starts, a conclusion in which everything has been made perfect would not be convincing. However, there's hope for Renne at the end, and I'm rooting for him.


This book was very interesting and loveable at the same time. It's hard not to read the whole book in one sitting. This non-fiction story will keep you wanting more and more. Steve Lopez the author as well as the protagonist in the story does a great job of portraying the connection between Nathaniel and himself, describing the severity of homelessness in Los Angeles, and re creating an inspirational story that actually happened. As I started to read the book I could see right away that something special was going to be created between the friendship of Nathaniel and Mr. Lopez. Lopez starts off by just wanting to write a story about Nathaniel but much change occurs when he really gets to know about him as a person and his past. Mr. Lopez turns almost into a father figure for Nathaniel. Nathaniel even says that he is God in one point of the story. Lopez transforms the feeble homeless man into someone that can now control himself and practice music in a dignified manner. The connection between the two men is amazing and it was very cool to see how it progressed in the story.Once I read about Lamp and the dangerous streets that surround Los Angeles I was flabbergasted. All I have ever heard about California is great stuff such as beaches, Casinos, and Kobe Bryant. Little did I know there were so many deaths going on in the homeless areas in so little of time. This book really enlightened me on the reality of homeless living and how dangerous it is. Mr. Lopez has a terrible experience on the streets of Los Angeles when he was trying to find Nathaniel, which made me never want to go where he was.The story that Steve Lopez creates in "The Soloist" is amazing. When you think about it, it must be very hard to write about his own life and the struggles he had to overcome with connecting to Nathaniel. He does a great job of keeping the story realistic and believable. At times I read things that made me wonder why he never just quit on Nathaniel being as hard to deal with as he was throughout the book. He must have had a lot of courage too not only write this book but to deal with Nathaniel as well.Overall I would give this book four stars. It's a very fast read that can take your life over if you really get into it. The book made me feel happy when I finished it knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life if I really show compassion just like Mr. Lopez showed to Nathaniel. Read it!!!


I really liked this book. I was drawn to it originally at the thrift store because it had a musical title and a picture of a cello on the cover. The description sounded good, so I picked it up. It turned out to be a quiet book that was immensely touching. It has three strands that are all woven together to form the full picture of a man coming to grips with his past and present and weaving them together to face his future. It is written in first person and vignettes of Renne's past as a child prodigy are interspersed with his present as a cello teacher of another prodigy and his involvement as a juror on a murder trial. All these stories combine to help him re-invent himself as a man and as a musician and it was an interesting journey. His descriptions of music and playing an instrument were deep and profound and I really enjoyed his wisdom and view of music.


The main character is a cellist --once a child prodigy --who abruptly ends his concert career after burning out. The story revolves around him "finding himself" as an adult. He is called to be a juror for a murder trial and Salzman uses the trial and deliberations as the vehicle to reveal the cellist's own mental turmoil. I gave it two stars (as opposed to one) because I thought the use of the trial in the plot was unique. But -- I found the characters to be predictable, flat, and uninteresting. And the number of cliche metaphors about music and emotion was annoying. You'll really hate the book if you are a) interested or practicing Zen Buddhism (he paints a very negative picture of it) or b) like any classical music other than Bach.

Christy Sibila

Salzman, author of the incomparable Iron And Silk, proves himself to be no "one hit wonder" with The Soloist. Renne Sundheimer, former cello child prodigy, finds himself plummeting towards mind-numbing despair and anxiety as his gift inexplicably slips away. Fifteen years later, his lonely, brooding life is shaken by a 9-year old sullen genius, a brash married woman, and the murder trial of a prominent Zen master. Interweaving the pieces of Renne's life with deft skill and an appealing voice, Salzman proves himself to be a vital voice in contemporary literature.


This is a book where I fully connected with the main character, his observations, his musings, his regrets. I believe because the story is told from first person perspective, it enabled me to more easily get into the book. It was enlightening, yet at times disconcerting, to find how often I found Renne reacting to situations, or describing himself much the same as I would. His career, the trial, the [near) romance, his student; all play roles in Renne's maturation and acceptance of himself as he has come to be as an adult. This is one book I had trouble putting down at night.


Encouraged me to rethink some of my fears of some of areas of LA. I definitely would recommend this one. I loved it when he wrote honestly and like a journalist...I didn't love it when he slipped into novel writing. I know that probably doesn't make much sense, but his story of befriending a homeless musician with mental illness was compelling enough without trying to impress me with flowery words.

Carolyn Gerk

There are a lot of bad reviews of this book. And a lot of good reviews that sound oddly like bad reviews. I liked it. I enjoyed every step of the way, except, maybe for the parts at the beginning that I found a little slow. Please do not go into this book picturing Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr as the main characters. I found them much more likeable when I managed to stop doing that, despite their faces gracing the cover.This novel deals more with the epidemic of homelessness in America and the link between street people and mental illness. Its no secret that the two often go hand in hand, particularily with schizophrenia. I worried that the sotry would be too much about music for me to buy into, but from the psychological aspect, the point of view of an outsider looking into the world of menatl instability, i found it relatable and very compelling.

Annemargaret Olsson

I was really looking forward to this book - how could a book with a cello and a cat on the cover to wrong. This book was a nice read, but it seemed to stay on the surface - where I thought it could have looked deeper at the schizophrenia - the issues the main character had due to his childhood - what his thoughts were toward the young boy that was giving so much to his cello. It was an okay book - not sure how much we will have to discuss at book club tonight.

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