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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


***Strange Mr. Satie

by M. T. Anderson

illustrated by Petra Mathers

Reviewed December 20, 2003.
Viking, New York, 2003.  44 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JB SAT).

Here is the story of the life of the composer Erik Satie, written by M. T. Anderson, author of the brilliant young adult novel Feed.

The story is told well, the basic facts and feeling of Erik Satie’s life given in picture book form.  There isn’t a lot of text on each page, and the text is given in the form of unrhymed poetry.

The title, Strange Mr. Satie, is definitely appropriate.  Erik Satie didn’t fit into the usual pattern of musicians or even of people in general.  He dropped out of music school (though he went back at the age of 39) and wrote very atypical pieces, giving them titles like Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear, or Real Flabby Preludes (for a Dog).  

He argued with his girlfriend, and actually threw her out of a window.  However, as M. T. Anderson puts it (along with creative positioning of the text), “Luckily, she had been a circus acrobat so she sailed lightly through the air, landed on her toes, and walked away from Erik Satie, the strange and obnoxious Erik Satie, forever.”

The endpapers of the book list some things from Erik Satie’s own writing.  It reminded me eerily of the autistic narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
For example:  “I eat only white foods:  eggs, sugar, scraped bones, animal fat, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken boiled in white water, fruit with mold…”  “I look very serious.  If I laugh, it is not on purpose.  Afterwards, I excuse myself nicely.”  “I go to bed regularly at 22.37.  Once a week, I wake up with a start at 3:19.  That’s on Tuesday.”

However, what the book does best is conveying Erik Satie’s genius, despite his refusal to be conventional.  He did achieve great success even in his own lifetime, and this book will give hope to anyone who dares to be different.
Reviews of other books by M. T. Anderson:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume I, The Pox Party
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves
Landscape with Invisible Hand
Symphony for the City of the Dead
Whales on Stilts!
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge
Elf Dog and Owl Head

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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