What can one say about a novel that combines opera, the Hungarian uprising, philosophising about urban planning, Toronto, the immigrant experience and lots of steamy lesbian sex? We can say that it’s an interesting combination and not surprisingly it appeals to someone who loves opera, is an immigrant, has a half Hungarian partner and thinks a lot about what makes cities work. The lesbian sex doesn’t do a lot for me but at least it’s well written lesbian sex which beats the heck out of a lot of the other kind in novels.
All of this is to say that Lydia Perovic’s new novel Incidental Music is well worth a read. The protagonist is, like the author, a newcomer to Toronto from the former Yugoslavia and queer. She has an affair with the director of “Living Heritage”; a Toronto agency devoted to finding socially worthy uses for heritage buildings. I’ve probably met her at John Sewell and Liz Rykert’s Christmas soirées. She is also involved with a retired, and demented, Hungarian soprano who left Hungary shortly after the uprising having been abruptly dumped by her mezzo lover. Within this framework of relationships there is some hilarious writing about teaching in a community college, the NDP, temping, a certain type of middle class party, going to the cottage, a Jane Jacobsian view of urban life and other typically Torontonian activities seen through the eyes of a slightly perplexed outsider. There is even the obligatory joke about people who live on the Esplanade (not that I’m sensitive about that you understand). It’s all told in a very distinct voice, Lydia’s. One can hear her in every phrase. It’s a bit eerie actually.
Highly recommended and not just for mezzo fixated lesbians!
Incidental Music by Lydia Perovic is published by INANNA Publications and Education.