Pentatonic by Jonathan Coe


Is it just a terrible blunder?

I was more than a little skeptical when I found out that Penguin had released a new short story from Jonathan Coe.  Don’t get me wrong; I love Coe’s writing.  In fact, he ranks near the top of my list of favorite living writers, but while his novels are flat out amazing, his past short story collection, the slim volume titled 9th & 13th, left a lot to be desired in terms of enjoyment.

Still, it’s new Coe, and that means I had to purchase it and dive in.  Interestingly enough it’s available in two flavors: both as an ebook and as an audiobook narrated by the author with backing music specially created by Danny Manners.  Of course I grabbed both.

Without diving too much into a technical discussion on the workings of music, the word pentatonic relates to the pentatonic scale, which contains five notes per octave.  Pentatonic scales are found in music all over the world, from Africa to Albania.

Pentatonic the story is about our relationship to music, and the way a particular song can invoke different feelings in different people depending on their life experiences.  This makes the audiobook version sound like an intriguing experiment.  However I opted to read the ebook and save the audio for a later date.

Being that it’s a short story, and that it’s meant to tide folks over until Coe’s 10th novel, Expo 58 arrives in September; I don’t want to give too many plot details away.  The basic premise revolves around the different interpretations of a particular piece of music that serves as the final nail in the coffin for the dissolution of the marriage of a British couple.  The price is right ($2.89), the story is thoughtfully well executed, and as an added bonus, fans of Coe’s work will notice some old friends that make a surprise return appearance.

Pentatonic ★★★★★
By Jonathan Coe

Electronic Book
~19 Pages
ISBN 9780241966075

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.