- On Wings of Song
- On wings of song
- On Wings of Song — Huron Hospice
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Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. The human society is in the terrible decline and On Wings of Song is a kind of cultural dystopia… Thomas M. I mean, aside from us. By then the old excuses are wearing pretty thin. A failure at thirty is likely to be a failure the rest of his life, and he knows it. You live in the constant stink of your own fear, waiting for the next major catastrophe: pyorrhea, an eviction notice, whatever. Dec 29, Manny rated it really liked it Shelves: science-fiction , too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. You'll gather that it's quite good. I read it not long after it came out, and have re-read it a couple of times since then. Like many of Disch's books, Wings uses an SF framework to make a point about society and religion. In his dystopian future US, life has been transformed by the invention of a device which, in prin [Original review, ] Thomas Disch is, in my humble opinion, the most underrated author of the last 50 years, and a reasonable number of people consider this to be his best novel.
In his dystopian future US, life has been transformed by the invention of a device which, in principle, allows anyone to have a transcendental spiritual experience. You hook yourself up to the machine, and sing in a particular way. Somehow, the singing brings the two halves of your brain into perfect balance, and the machine does the rest: it liberates your astral projection, which is then free to depart where it will.
The body is left alive, but without consciousness, and needs to be tended. Usually, the spirit returns to its body after a few days, but some spirits never return. In some states, everything that has to do with music is strictly forbidden. In others, people believe that access to "flying", as it is called, is an inalienable right. The hero has a complicated life, living in both types of environment. He starts off in repressive Iowa, where flying is an illegal activity, but later moves to New York, where it's permitted. He wants to learn to fly, but it doesn't quite work for him. He does all the right things, he takes singing lessons from masters, but despite all his efforts he can't liberate his astral projection.
He does, however, become a gifted singer. He starts giving concerts, where he is hooked up to a flying rig. He pretends he's flying to please his fans, who are taken in. One day, at a concert, a deranged religious fanatic shoots him while he is hooked up to the rig, and the display is showing him flying.
He's instantly killed. The story is told in a low-key, matter-of-fact way, and another reviewer here complains that it isn't as overtly brilliant as Camp Concentration and That's true.
But I've thought about it, on and off, ever since I first read it. Surely "flying" must symbolize something, but what? Is it drugs?
Somehow, I can't put my finger on it. Nothing quite seems to fit. And what does the ending mean? That if we keep putting off the truly important thing, one day we'll suddenly discover it's too late? That he finally managed to fly for real, and that's exactly when he was killed? That no one except him ever knew whether he was faking as usual during his last performance, or whether he did have the experience he'd been seeking all his life? I thought about these questions again today while we were having a walk, and as usual I couldn't decide. View all 5 comments.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Although most of the novels that get nominated seem to be available in hardback, few seem to hit the mass markets in time for the voting. The shorter categories are even more inaccessible, particularly the nominees that appear in har If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The shorter categories are even more inaccessible, particularly the nominees that appear in hardback anthologies like Orbit that are only bought by libraries.
Oct 01, Christy rated it really liked it Shelves: readinglist2-sf , science-fiction-and-fantasy.
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Thomas Disch's On Wings of Song is a multi-layered, interesting novel because it addresses issues of power familial, governmental, disciplinary , the value of art, the relationship between mind or soul and body, and the relationship between appearance and reality. Power: The protagonist, Daniel Weinreb, has grown up in the repressive society of Iowa.
While still a teenager he is arrested for selling forbidden out-of-state newspapers and is sent to jail where he nearly freezes and starves becau Thomas Disch's On Wings of Song is a multi-layered, interesting novel because it addresses issues of power familial, governmental, disciplinary , the value of art, the relationship between mind or soul and body, and the relationship between appearance and reality. While still a teenager he is arrested for selling forbidden out-of-state newspapers and is sent to jail where he nearly freezes and starves because the prisoners are essentially left to fend for themselves, prevented from running away by having a bomb implanted in them that will explode if they cross the perimeter of the prison.
Daniel encounters abuses of power within the prison, within the government and school systems, and in the family of his girlfriend, Boadicea, as her father, a wealthy leader of the community, manipulates the world to his liking. This issue is dealt with directly by Disch. He shows us how pervasive abuses of power are while never leading us to believe that they are completely inescapable or unchangeable. Art: One major means to escape these abuses is art, specifically singing, and flight. In this world, there are machines that allow those hooked into them to sing their way out of their bodies and into a transcendent state of being.
Daniel describes this experience: "The moment one leaves one's body by the power of song, the lips fall silent, but the song goes on, and so long as one flies the song continues" Boadicea, far more intimately acquainted with flight, also describes it: "What other choice can there be, after all [but to fly]? It is, as my father might say, a business proposition. Here one finds, at most, only a little pleasure; there, there is only pleasure. Here, if my body perishes, I must perish with it; when I am there, the body's death will cease to concern me" At first, singing is only meaningful to Daniel as a means to learn to fly.
As the narrative progresses, however, singing becomes its only reward. He reaches the point where he could fly while singing, but he chooses not to. Why not abandon the body, the meat, the flesh, that which is accompanied by pain and embarrassment and failure? Why not soar into this transcendent space? A conversation with Mrs. Schiff, a composer and supporter of the arts as well as his roommate for a time, may begin to answer these questions.
She tells him, "Merely to be striving, ever and always, is no distinction. That's what's wrong with German music. It's all development, all Sehnsucht and impatience. The highest art is happy to inhabit this moment, here and now. A great singer sings the way a bird warbles. One doesn't need a large soul to warble, only a throat" In this light, singing is its own end and its own reward. This realization is also, however, the key to flight. Daniel says later, "It was as Mrs. Schiff had said about music, that it must be a warbling, and willing to inhabit this instant, and then this instant, and always this instant, and not just willing, and not even desirous, but delighted: an endless, seamless inebriation of song.
That was what bel canto was all about, and that was the way to fly. In Daniel's mind, bel canto is at this point no longer a means to the end of flight, but an experience as transcendent and meaningful as he'd always hoped flight would be. He acknowledges, during his final concert, that "he was willing, at last, that this [singing] should be his life, his only life.
On Wings of Song
If it were small, that was a part of its charm" Finally, he chooses not to fly but instead to sing because, as he tells his brother-in-law, "When you're out of your body that long, you stop being altogether human" Daniel repeatedly is told and learns the lesson that reality is created by one's actions. In other words, if you pretend something is true, it is true or will become true. His mother pretends to be a normal Iowan housewife and eventually becomes one; Grandison Whiting, Boa's father, pretends to be larger and more confident than he is with a fake beard and eventually becomes a powerful individual who is feared and respected by the entire community; Van Dyke, a Christian speaker and writer, says, "if the way we become the kind of people we are is by pretending, then the way to become good, devout, and faithful Christians which, admit it, is a well-nigh impossible undertaking is to pretend to be good, devout, and faithful" 57 ; Daniel pretends to be black which is a whole fascinating subplot in and of itself , pretends to be in love with a castrato another fascinating subplot , and, finally, pretends to fly and these acts create a new self, open new doors for him, and free him to truly sing.
Even in Daniel's final performance, he does not actually fly though he knows he could ; instead he pretends to fly. He has made his decision to value the here and now instead of striving for something outside of his body and his self and so he will not fly, but even in this refusal he reinforces the strength and significance of his singing by acting the part of the man having a transcendent experience of flight. The act is, in many ways, the reality.
This truth is an ambivalent one, however, when it comes to the question of flight. If appearances create reality, should not flight be the ultimate reality where what you think you see is more real than the real world? On the other hand, the mechanism of flight requires the appearance of death for the physical body, which creates a different reality altogether.
But--and here's the crux of the matter--the appearance is not the same as the act. Daniel, his mother, Grandison, and Van Dyke do not merely appear to be what they wish to be; they act like the thing they wish to be. It is an active process not a passive one and one that requires an embodied subject, which is something that is impossible in flight.
For Daniel, finally, singing trumps flight because in it he is complete, both body and soul, as well as part of a larger community. Boa chooses flight over "real life" and has a very different experience: she experiences pleasure but she is incomplete and isolated by the experience. She does not grow, but only finds a delightful stasis. View 2 comments. This is my first dish of Disch, and while I wasn't completely blown away storywise, I enjoyed this novel a lot, mainly on the strength of the writing.
Disch is an impressive prose stylist—particularly for working in a genre that is not known for a preponderance of great prose stylists—so I think given different subject matter, I might find some of his other writings more to my taste. Light on the sci-fi, On Wings of Song is rather more of a "path of the artist" tale like The Song of the Lark by This is my first dish of Disch, and while I wasn't completely blown away storywise, I enjoyed this novel a lot, mainly on the strength of the writing.
Light on the sci-fi, On Wings of Song is rather more of a "path of the artist" tale like The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather a writer that Disch has expressed admiration for set in a near-future 21st-Century America where the midwestern states are idyllic yet repressive religious-right strongholds that consider the relatively uninhibited eastern cities immoral, decadent, ruinous hellholes.
Well, did this ever ring some bells of recognition. Despite some blackface silliness in the second half, Disch was a remarkably prescient writer who had a good understanding of the rise of religious conservatism and the fracturing of the country into the "two Americas," which frankly doesn't seem to be getting any better lately. Hm, yes, it certainly would be nice to just fly away on wings of song.
This is an odd book. If I recounted the entire plot, you would think I was on drugs. It swerved back and forth from fairly horrific dystopia to comedy to fantasy to what seemed like, but turned out not to be, a gay coming-out story. It's set in the future, where there is ample political repression, but it's worse in some states than others. Iowa is highly repressed, Minnesota much less so. The This is an odd book. The mother has abandoned them, but she shows up five years later and all their lives continue on as if nothing remarkable happened.
Teenage Daniel has a paper route, but in Iowa this particular newspaper turns out to be obscene and seditious and he is sent to prison. There are no fences, gates, or razorwire; everyone is fitted with a stomach lozenge containing a plastic explosive that will be detonated by radio waves if one ventures beyond the confines of the prison yard. After his release from prison the Supreme Court has overruled Iowa's seditious newspaper law , Daniel marries a wealthy young woman named Boadicea.
Her father offers her hand in marriage after he has secretly watched them having sex. On their honeymoon, they attempt to fly; some people are able to fly if they sing songs in a highly meaningful way. Their souls leave their bodies and fly around, sometimes rejoining their bodies, sometimes not. Boadicea is able to fly, but Daniel, who has wanted desperately to fly for years, is not. At this point, Disch goes haywire and brings in insanity belts chastity belts for men , castrati, people called "phoneys" who dye their skin black short for faux noirs except for one pinky so people will know they're not actually black.
Food rationing is severe, so Daniel and the elderly woman whose apartment he shares concoct a delicious bread pudding made of dog food, Hyprotine powder, and artificial sweetener. There's a Donald Trump connection. In prison, a former music teacher sends Daniel a book by a Reverend Van Dyke titled The Product is God , which advises uncertain devotees to deeply pretend to be Christian.
On wings of song
This will be just as good as being so. What real life minister was pastor of Marble Collegiate Church for 52 years? That would be Dr. Trump's parents attended the church, and apparently Trump did as a youngster, or at least he claims he did. Trump said Tuesday. You hated to leave church. You hated when the sermon was over.
Disch has rendered our present provincialism, conformity, commercialism, frivolity, intolerance, and narcissism. It's a coming of age story commenting on the decay and inequities of Western Civilization. Oct 09, Larry-bob Roberts rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: queer opera buffs. I first read this when I was in Junior High probably too young for some of the subject matter.
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I identified with the main character -after all, I was also a paperboy who delivered the Minneapolis Tribune. As my life has developed, more coincidences have developed - for instance, the main character became the kept boy of an African-American castrato opera singer, while I became the piano accompanist of an African-American countertenor singer. I figure I probably should re-read the book and see I first read this when I was in Junior High probably too young for some of the subject matter. I figure I probably should re-read the book and see what other parallels I can find.
Sep 26, Timothy rated it really liked it. Weird, good. Disch themes in common with Camp Concentration: unjust imprisonment, the police state, drugs, dandies. Despite some inherent corniness -- like how singing beautifully turns people into a magical flying fairies -- I find myself thinking about this book pretty often.
Sep 13, Aaron rated it it was amazing.
On Wings of Song — Huron Hospice
RIP, Tom Disch. Jan 20, Don Naggie rated it it was amazing. On Wings of Song left a deep impact on me in many ways. It is, if memory serves me correct, divided into three sections that serve as three unique aesthetic visions of the life of the protagonist. His childhood, his falling in love, and his final isolation. Devastating, a deeply moving and powerful work.
I will need to write a more serious review of this work when I have the time. I, like Daniel, have spent my hours with Hanon's Virtuoso Pianist. The connection between making music and flying is totally natural. The one-star reviews are too funny. Obviously this novel was too much for some people.
Aug 08, G Steve rated it liked it. I don't know if I'd list is one of the Best but it is a uniquely matter of fact dystopia. And the characters are a step above SciFi fare. Beutifully written, but a little heartless. I never got as attached to Daniel as I would have liked. May 28, Victoria Gaile rated it did not like it Shelves: science-fiction. I read this book years ago and remember nothing about it except the intensity with which I hated it, especially given the title, which sounded like it would be a beautiful uplifting story! I was mad at Disch for years over this and never read anything else by him.
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Feb 28, Uriha rated it it was amazing. May 10, Jordan P rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. This is an almost perfect novel, but it may take a while to learn how to read it. It contains a dizzying assortment of concepts, presented so seamlessly and casually that it's easy to lose them in the exuberant momentum of the prose.
Even so, it reveals itself slowly, and the reader is well into the narrative before it becomes clear what kind of story this is. It is science-fiction in the sense of building a self-contained world, but the absurdist, dreamlike fertility of the world place it close This is an almost perfect novel, but it may take a while to learn how to read it. It is science-fiction in the sense of building a self-contained world, but the absurdist, dreamlike fertility of the world place it closer to fantasy.
It is a fractured world, full of woozy anomalies- Daniel's age, for example. In the early portions of the novel, when he is an adolescent, he rarely actually acts like an adolescent. There is a distracting absurdity in the fact that he seamlessly returns to the mundane conflicts of a high school teenager after months spent in a prison which is little more than a concentration camp.
But the concepts at work here- youthful disillusionment, moral compromise, wounded idealism- are common and sound, they are just warped and distorted by novel's fluid, shifting texture. One-off characters, sometimes grotesque in the Dickensian sense of possessing a single all-consuming eccentricity, will disappear and turn up hundreds of pages later, utterly changed and in unsuspected circumstances.
The tone of the writing itself may lapse into romantic earnestness or ironic satire on the same page. Overall these contradictions serve to create an effectively disorienting, almost surreal, reading experience. But this is not a pretentious book. The scope is epic and the canvas is flamboyantly cluttered, but the execution is economical and assured.
Nothing is unnecessary, nothing is indulgent. The themes are universal and are never obscured by Disch's approach. The world of the novel is a nightmarish exaggeration of the disparity between rural America and urban America- society is in constant of flux between collapse tentative stability. We can't wait for you to see what we're building! Your ongoing donations are essential for The LiederNet Archive to continue in its mission of providing this unique resource to the world, so if you didn't get a chance to contribute during the overhaul drive, your help in any amount is still valuable.
Burns, Heine, Eichendorff u. Last modified: Line count: 20 Word count: 89 Gentle Reminder This website began in as a personal project, and I have been working on it full-time without a salary since The LiederNet Archive. Last modified: Line count: 20 Word count: 89 Gentle Reminder. This website began in as a personal project, and I have been working on it full-time without a salary since There lies a red-flowering garden, in the serene moonlight, the lotus-flowers await Their beloved sister.
James Reid & Nadine Lustre - On the Wings of Love Lyrics
The violets giggle and cherish, and look up at the stars, The roses tell each other secretly Their fragant fairy-tales. The gentle, bright gazelles, pass and listen; and in the distance murmurs The waves of the holy stream. There we will lay down, under the palm-tree, and drink of love and peacefulnes And dream our blessed dream.
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