Us Conductors

Us Conductors Winner of the Scotiabank Giller PrizeA beautiful haunting novel inspired by the true life and loves of the famed Russian scientist inventor and spy Lev Termen creator of the theremin Us Conduct

  • Title: Us Conductors
  • Author: Sean Michaels
  • ISBN: 9780345813329
  • Page: 176
  • Format: Paperback
  • Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller PrizeA beautiful, haunting novel inspired by the true life and loves of the famed Russian scientist, inventor and spy Lev Termen creator of the theremin.Us Conductors takes us from the glamour of Jazz Age New York to the gulags and science prisons of the Soviet Union On a ship steaming its way from Manhattan back to Leningrad, Lev TeWinner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller PrizeA beautiful, haunting novel inspired by the true life and loves of the famed Russian scientist, inventor and spy Lev Termen creator of the theremin.Us Conductors takes us from the glamour of Jazz Age New York to the gulags and science prisons of the Soviet Union On a ship steaming its way from Manhattan back to Leningrad, Lev Termen writes a letter to his one true love , Clara Rock, telling her the story of his life Imprisoned in his cabin, he recalls his early years as a scientist, inventing the theremin and other electric marvels, and the Kremlin s dream that these inventions could be used to infiltrate capitalism itself Instead, New York infiltrated Termen he fell in love with the city s dance clubs and speakeasies, with the students learning his strange instrument, and with Clara, a beautiful young violinist Amid ghostly sonatas, kung fu tussles, brushes with Chaplin and Rockefeller, a mission to Alcatraz, the novel builds to a crescendo Termen s spy games fall apart and he is forced to return home, where he s soon consigned to a Siberian gulag Only his wits can save him, but they will also plunge him even deeper toward the dark heart of Stalin s Russia.Us Conductors is a book of longing and electricity Like Termen s own life, it is steeped in beauty, wonder and looping heartbreak How strong is unrequited love What does it mean when it is the only thing keeping you alive This sublime debut inhabits the idea of invention on every level, no so than in its depiction of Termen s endless feelings for Clara against every realistic odd For what else is love, but the greatest invention of all Michaels book is based on the life of Lev Termen, the Russian born inventor of the Theremin, the most ethereal of musical instruments As the narrative shifts countries and climates, from the glittery brightness of New York in the 1920s to the leaden cold of the Soviet Union under Stalin, the grace of Michaels s style makes these times and places seem entirely new He succeeds at one of the hardest things a writer can do he makes music seem to sing from the pages of a novel Giller Prize Jury Citation

    One thought on “Us Conductors”

    1. "As the music rose up, it also vanished. Sometimes it is like this, listening to music: the steady bars let you separate from your body, slip your skin, and you are standing before the shuttering slides of memory."I loved this book! I came across it by accident but was surprised I hadn't heard of it, seeing as it won the Giller Prize in 2014. I'm always a sucker for novels with music in them in some way. In Us Conductors, Sean Michaels takes the basic story of the inventor of the theremin and tu [...]

    2. When the winner of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced Nov. 10, I wasn't alone in my surprise.Sean Michaels, a first-time novelist and music blogger, took home a cheque for $100,000 for "Us Conductors" (Random House Canada, 347 pages, $26 hardcover).Michaels was up against seasoned writers: Miriam Toews, Frances Itani, Heather O'Neill, David Bezmogis and Padma Viswanathan. The Giller remains Canada's premiere fiction prize — not least because of its increased purse — but seems [...]

    3. This is a book where Lev Theremin will very matter-of-factly tell you what happened, then what happened next, then what happened after that. It's just very difficult to care about anything happening to such an indifferent narrator (Lev seems ambivalent toward Mother Russia, his ex-wife, his current wife, and his sisterwho is the only blood relative mentioned even in passing after 250 pages). His obsession with Clara is therefore unconvincing (can automatons really obsess?), and the book doesn't [...]

    4. This novel won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian version of the Booker, in 2014 and weaves fact and fiction to tell the life story of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, otherwise known as Leon Termen or Dr Theremin; scientist, inventor, spy and prisoner. The book begins in Russia, where Termen invents the theremin – a kind of electrical instrument, played by moving your arms around in the air and disturbing the current. It is a time of revolution and Termen is a success. He begins to t [...]

    5. **I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book free through a First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.** :)The narrator of this 1920s tale is Lev Termen, real-life Russian scientist and inventor of the theremin, a novel and eerie musical instrument that relies on the subtle movement of one's hands through an electric current to produce music. Perhaps anyone can intuit or learn how to play a note or a song on the theremin, but only a select few understand the science undern [...]

    6. This is an absolutely brilliant book! I don't know what to say about this book. It was so complex and so believable with wonderful characters that I can't believe this is a first novel for Sean Michaels. The best compliment that I can give the book is it totally deserved to win the coveted Giller Prize this year. Rarely do I happen to stumble upon a book that reaches me so totally. I was so engrossed in Lev Termen's life that I hated to have to put the book down and come back to reality. The sto [...]

    7. There are three solid storylines at play in this novel. There is the biographical story of the inventor, Termen, and his relationship with one of the most distinct sounding instruments ever to be listened to. There is the political story of two nations, both post-war giants, and Termen's relationship to their overlapping circles of spying and espionage. And then there is the love story between Termen and the beautiful, considerably younger socialite that he meets in New York City while peddling [...]

    8. I really loved that book. The metaphors are poetic, precise and original. The repetitions make it musical, lyrical. Plus, I loved the story partly based on the true life of Lev Termen, the "Russian Edison". I didn't know about him at all, and his real life and inventions are fascinating in themselves. I want to read about his life now! Si vous préférez le lire en français, sachez que la traduction est vraiment chouette. C'est rare que j'apprécie les traductions autant, alors ça valait la pe [...]

    9. Based on the subtitle — “In which I seek the heart of Clara Rockmore, my one true love, finest theremin player the world will ever know” — alone, I expected to read a novel feature a so-called “nice guy” who engages in the rather hipster pastime of listening to the music of an obscure instrument. Imagine my surprise when I reached the fifteenth page and learned the novel is, in fact, based on the life of the inventor of the theremin, Lev Sergeyevich Termen (also known as Léon Therem [...]

    10. This novel is a fictionalization of the life of Lev Sergeyvich Termen (in the U.S. he went by the name Leon Theremin), the inventor of the musical instrument called the theremin. (For those of you who don't know, the theremin is "an electronic instrument played by moving the hands near its two antennas, often used for high tremolo effects"[The American Heritage Dictionary].) Termen was a spy for the Soviet Union and spent a great deal of time in America. He went back to Russia as a prisoner and [...]

    11. I bought this book in 2014 after it won Canada's Giller prize, without knowing what it was about. Then the book languished on my TBR shelf until now. I had no idea what it was about when I bought it. I had never heard of a "theremin" or of Lev Termin. As I read I resolved when finished to see if either the device or the man ever existed, but I found my answer in the Author's Note at the end of the book! And thanks to the links in Krista's review, I was able to hear Termin and his love Clara play [...]

    12. An extremely accomplished (first!!) novel that imagines, in exquisite detail, the lives of historical figures. Lev Termen was clearly a genius to whom we owe many diverse electronic inventions. I enjoyed this bookbut:--The choppy short sentences, especially prominent in the first half of the book, got on my nerves. Also, the detail was a bit too exquisite (50-100 pages-worth)--Turns out I find the sound of the theremin quite repellant (though that's hardly Mr. Michael's fault)--The story was onl [...]

    13. This was a very complex and cleverly tied together fictionalized account of the life and career of Lev Thermen, the inventor and celebrated player of a fascinating musical instrument, the theremin. His story is presented through a series of flashbacks and forwards and is intricately set in both New York's Jazz Age and the Soviet Union's reign of terror.How Sean Michaels combines physics, politics, romance and music is a terrific creative accomplishment. I found Part One a little bit difficult to [...]

    14. Really need 1/2 stars on as this would be 3.5 stars. Enjoyed the historical aspect but felt no empathy for the narrator.

    15. I had put off reading Sean Michaels' Us Conductors because when I heard it was about Lev Sergeyevich Termen and his invention of the theremin, the eerie electronic instrument, I couldn't generate any enthusiasm for the topic (and not least of all because I found the proto-synth sounds the theremin produced -- in my memory anyway -- annoying and unmusical). I thought the book would be dull and I was completely wrong. In Michaels' imagination, Termen was a genius with electricity -- both pioneer a [...]

    16. 4.5 stars, and I’ve rounded it up to five.A few years ago, I went to a musical instrument museum, and took a tour that included everything from beautifully constructed, centuries old harpsichords to an enormous organ constructed for a silent movie theatre, that could produce all kinds of amazing sound effects. It was also my first introduction to the Theremin, where a tour guide played the Canadian national anthem for us.It’s truly eerie watching someone play a Theremin, seeing someone pull [...]

    17. This interesting novel by Sean Michaels is one of six nominees for Canada's 2014 Giller Prize. There is a combination of emotional intensity, deep character probing and skilled writing in all these novels. And the social and political relevance of the books is powerful in every case, with insights into mental illness, the abuse of human rights, the devastations of war and terrorism, and the realities of poverty."Us Conductors" finds its music amid the grim oppression of Stalin's labour camps as [...]

    18. I've been fascinated by the theremin for many years: it's that ethereal, otherworldly instrument that became a mainstay of 1960s sci-fi shows, and was the subject of a great documentary in the early 90s, a sound very much like the one used in Good Vibrations and the Doctor Who theme song, even though both used fake versions of what the theremin instrument actually was. I remember going to see that movie and instantly being drawn to the story. Now Sean Michaels takes it and draws so much more fro [...]

    19. -This was a Good Reads first reads win!-Spoilers?To cut to the chase I really loved this book. I loved pausing after reading something so beautifully written by Sean Michaels to soak it in. I loved imagining George Gershwin and Glen Miller jamming at Dr Theremin's house. I especially loved the tragic second half of the book. But the thing I did not like, or rather, found the least compelling was Termen's love for Clara. It's strange though, I feel like it worked for the story, and Termen needed [...]

    20. This author's ability to write a book that ranges in theme from music (including Jazz Age New York City) to the Soviet gulag is amazing. The theme of music and, in this novel, its relationship to science, run throughout settings from Leningrad to New York to Kolyma Labor Camp and to Moscow and activities from scientific experimentation to dancing in Harlem to working in the gulag to spying (both in the US and in Russia). What a strange and wonderful combination! The writing is beautiful. I will [...]

    21. Unforgettable!!!This novel has so much to offer -- otherworldly music, inventions, science, history, glamour, espionage, gulags, prison deprivations and dancing so hard your shoes come undone. But the electricity that powers the entire tale is the love Leon has for Clara. Brilliantly written and imagined, Us Conductors transported me to times and places I have never been. A worthy Giller Prize winner!

    22. Premier roman du Montréalais Sean Michaels, habilement traduit par Catherine Leroux, Corps conducteurs entraîne le lecteur entre la folie du New York des années trente et les goulags russes, sur la trace de Léon Termen, l'inventeur du thérémine. Ce roman – à la fois histoire d'amour et d'espionnage, biographie romancée et hymne à la musique – démontre la grande maîtrise de l'auteur. Captivant!

    23. Oh wow, did I love this book. The story is great, and I was very interested in the characters and to find out how things would unfold but mostly I just loved how it was written. Like, I LOVED how it was written. The style and structure of his sentences was just beautiful and so perfectly captured the love story. Definitely one that I'll need to pick up in paperback for a re-read.

    24. Presque parfait comme lecture. Un roman tout en nuances. Une histoire d'amour, une histoire sur l'art. Un roman d'espionnage Une traduction spectaculaire de Catherine Leroux !

    25. Us Conductors notably plays fast and loose with its label as historical fiction. Michaels freely admits in his Author’s Note that the Termen he depicts is highly fictionalized—no kung fu or murder is on record, as far as we know—and points the reader in the direction of a more vanilla accounting of Termen’s real life. It seems, sometimes, like authors of historical fiction can’t win. No matter how close one adheres to historical fact, one invariably becomes the target of a pedant who w [...]

    26. The story of the russian inventor of the theremin, his life-long love Clara Rockwell and his many adventures in Soviet Russia, including work in a gulag. Chilling stuff at times but it was incredibly sweet to see a picture of the real Leon and Clara after I was done reading this.

    27. Was a tad slow at the start but eventually became immersed in this lyrically thrilling and constantly surprising narrative set in both America and Russia from the 1920s to the late 1940s.

    28. Not being knowledgeable about physics and not being a lover of electronic music, I did not find this book’s subject matter appealing and so read it only after it won the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Though I have not yet read the other books on the award’s shortlist, I must admit that this novel did not strike me as being of the quality I would expect for one of Canada’s foremost literary awards.The book is very loosely based on the life of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, the Russian inventor of t [...]

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