Always excellent on social and family dynamics, Buckley surrounds Imogen and his narrator with keenly observed characters ... Buckley has a mind like a cabinet of curiosities crammed with weird and wonderful stuff. Combining images of Imogen with choice specimens from it, he pieces together what you gradually recognise as a meaningful mosaic. Matching the book’s central subject, post-mortem motifs predominate ... There’s engaging information about relics ... Among the book’s ravishingly visualised scenes of natural beauty, sunsets noticeably stand out. Transience and mortality suffuse Buckley’s novel but, in elating counterpoint, it sparkles with intelligence and zest for life’s pleasures.
'a constellation of moments' searching for harmony. By the end, we learn more about the narrator than his beloved ... one reads this beautifully written book because the author provides food for thought with reflections on love, the imagination and death.
As with many of Buckley’s books, The Great Concert of the Night is structured as a series of riffs—or rifts rather—which allow for lava-like eruptions of memory and great salty lakes of observation. Transnational and transhistorical, Buckley’s terrain is a vast territory rather than a particular place or a time ... Bravura passage follows bravura passage, to the point not only of superabundance but of superfluity. As Buckley hauls out yet more personal relics from the narrator’s memory for our perusal, the vast array becomes overwhelming. But perhaps that’s the point ... The odd leaden insight or observation seems unworthy of the brilliance elsewhere on display, but the figure of Imogen—figured and refigured in descriptions of her various screen roles—remains fascinating throughout.
The Great Concert of the Night, Jonathan Buckley’s beguiling tenth novel, is itself like the museum: an occasion for speculation, reflection, distraction, and aimless wonder ... Its penetrating observations and correspondences generate pleasure: layers of experience resonate with history while illuminating the eternity of the moment ... In crucial ways, The Great Concert of the Night is built and progresses like Mathias Énard’s Prix Goncourt-winning novel Compass and it is just as brilliant. Each narrator speaks discursively from a position of lack and loss, in a world stocked and strewn with cultural artifacts. Although the novels may be tagged, too easily, as post-modern in form, they are profoundly classical in their concerns and conception of humanity. Plot is secondary to the layering and collision of impressions; the reader is a collaborator, not a passive receptacle of conclusions. There is no fear of nostalgia ... This superb novel generates that strangely familiar sensation that something wonderful has been revealed, momentarily.
... while admirable and frequently beautiful, this cerebral and disorienting book handily illustrates why Mr. Buckley has long been marooned in the commercial no-man’s land of writer’s writers. Like most of Mr. Buckley’s novels, this one does not quite have a plot ... What we are reading, we soon learn, is a journal that David will keep over the course of the year. This ensures a narrative that is episodic, disjointed and littered with half-remembered moments from earlier that day or years before ... [it] is also sometimes bewildering... Although this book lacks much in the way of an arc or momentum, there is meaning in the juxtapositions ... Museums here offer an analogy of sorts for the mess of a remembered life.
Readers who dislike artsy books told in nonlinear fragments will undoubtedly dislike this one; but for the rest of us, David’s diary is actually something of a triumph. It contains moments of astonishing lyricism ... It contains moments of dark humor ... ultimately, Buckley’s novel is both very entertaining and very sad—a book of high artifice that feels true. Addictive, elegiac, and pristinely paced.
... underwhelming ... While David’s takes on history and literature are insightful and often pleasurable to read, and his evolving, fatherlike relationship to William is moving, the narrator is a confounding character ... The women in his life—who all seem to adore him despite himself—appear one-dimensional. Imogen, particularly, is distractingly precocious, and her dreamgirl qualities come across as ridiculous without adding anything to readers’ understanding of David’s psyche or his relationships with women. This novel is far too interested in its narrator’s own supposed brilliance than in the concepts it pertains to be about.