Edgar has arrived in Burma as we start today’s section in The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason. Also, I modified the reading plan slightly at the 24 chapters didn’t fall evenly half and half, so today we will end with chapter 11 and next week pick up with chapter 12 and the start of book 2.
Chapter 7 is the (heart breaking) tiger hunt. I have such compassion for Edgar because I see myself mirrored in him. He is well intentioned. He has learned a bit about the culture through reading reports. He means to do well — and later we will see him making language attempts and wanting to interact with the culture. So when it came to the tiger hunt and his desire not to go, but not knowing how to get out of it, I saw myself too. I think we have all been in situations where we were uncomfortable, yet stuck.
And then the unthinkable happened. “It had changed everything, he thinks. This is not part of my plan, my contract, my commission.”
Chapter 8 finds Edgar (and reader) trying to make sense of what happened. Like him, I was surprised the accidental killing was recorded. Also like Edgar, I saw how the British sought absolution through bureaucracy and loved the line “blurring behind bureaucracy.”
Again we had foreshadowing with Edgar picking up the dead boys coin and inheriting his fortune. Did anyone else smile and cheer on Katherine for having him memorize some sport scores? Edgar probably would not have thought about sports, but Katherine knew they could be a point of connection between Edgar and others.
I loved the writing in Chapter 8 when they were on the flotilla and the men telling the stories — I am impressed that Moran can create such different feeling in different settings. And that section? It felt like like people telling stories! I loved that Edgar is floating toward the man he has yet to meet (Carroll) and hearing stories of him. I am struck by the love and admiration people have for Carroll though they have never met him. It makes me think of social media and blogs—where we get to know each other from a distance. It makes me wonder, “Amy, are you investing in the world in such a way that the stories told of you are laced with love?”
How brilliant that Carroll played the local love song to build relationships. It struck me that he played a LOVE song showing that he came in love! Again, had me thinking how we can play love songs with our lives and work. My favorite line (and very thought provoking) is: “That although the Commissioner proclaimed there was Peace, for the soldiers there was only Maintaining Peace, which was very different, and with this came fear and the need for something to keep the fear away.”
Wow. Actually peace is different than maintaining peace. Christ is the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of Maintaining Peace. As a disciple of Christ, do I have peace? Or do I not really have the fruit of peace because I am trying to maintain peace?
One more thing from Chapter 8 and then I know I need to move it along or we will be here all day :). Let’s just pretend we are floating on a river chatting. Okay? Those dacoits on the boy. Those boys! Made me think of cults and Alqada and other groups like that they touch deep into people who have lost hope and a sense of belonging — offering false hope and false belonging. This chapter has me longing for the Lord’s Prayer to be answered. God’s kingdom here on earth. Daily provision. Peace between us and God and each other.
Finally we are in Mandalay with Edgar!!
In Chapter 9 he meets Khin Myo and shows his desire to cross cultures with his attempts at Burmese and interest in walking around the town. I laughed that his watch from Katherine is only right twice a day now — showing that she is still very much on his mind. I was pained by his observation that “I am amazed but it is all so . . . reproduced.” Like many of you, I struggle with the balance of making my home something I am familiar with and comfortable in, yet not so reproduced from my home country I don’t embrace the local culture.
Chapter 10 are the pwe’ shows. I loved how Edgar has two guides: one who is expat and one who is local. We can benefit from both. The chapter ends with more foreshadowing. (I sense my high school English teachers smiling.) “The Captain shoot his head. ‘No, I have not abandoned everything,’ he said, and paused. ‘But there are those who have.’ ‘Another Carroll,’ said the piano tuner softly. ‘Or others, perhaps,’ said Khin Myo.”
And then in Chapter 11 Edgar is told, “Oh no! Not today sir!” But doesn’t know why the delay or how long the delay. Remember your early days in country when things like this would happen but you didn’t know the culture or language enough to be able to read what was really going on? Or at least not as well as you can now? As the week went on and Edgar didn’t know what was going on, I could relate to how exhausted by the process he was becoming. I laughed when the reality was clashing with the stories Edgar had already started to tell about what WOULD happen. I’ve done that too! Played out a scene in my head before it happened and anticipated how I will describe something. (Let me be clear again, something that hadn’t even happened. I look good in my pre-version of reality! Oh Amy.)
I loved his letter to Katherine as he waited and this line: “I know we spoke often of this at home, and I still don’t doubt a piano’s role. But I have come to think that ‘bringing music and culture here’ is more subtle—there are art and music here already.”
Have any of you read Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II? I did last year and would recommend it for those who want to learn about elephants (they are fascinating!), a bit of Burmese history, and WWII in Burma.
I could go on, but let’s continue in the comments. Before we end for today, I have fun news. This spring we are going to read two books in tandem! A couple of weeks ago Danielle mentioned Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. I have only skimmed through it (so we can read together), but I noticed themes that reminded me so much of Margaret Feinberg’s Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. I have made a reading plan where we will read a couple of chapters in Humble and related chapters in Scouting. It will be fun for a change. The good news is that both are cheap on Kindle and Velvet Ashes is going to . . .
Give away ten sets of both books! Five this week and five next week. Leave a comment to be entered to win both books! If you haven’t read The Piano Tuner, did you play an instrument as a child? Do you sing out of tune? Anything really, just comment!
February 6: Chapters 1-6
February 13: Chapters 7-11
February 20: Chapters 12-17 (We will finally meet Carroll through Edgar’s eyes!)
February 27: Chapters 18-24