Us Conductors Paperback – Deckle Edge, Apr 8 2014
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WINNER 2014 - The Scotiabank Giller Prize
FINALIST 2014 – Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction
FINALIST 2014 – Concordia University First Book Prize
LONGLISTED 2015 – International DUBLIN Literary Award
“Following the life of Leon Termen, the inventor of the theremin, Us Conductors takes the reader from Leningrad to New York City, from gulags to speakeasies, dance floors and concert stages to laboratories and cattle cars. Us Conductors stretches its arms to encompass nearly everything—it is an immigrant tale, an epic, a spy intrigue, a prison confession, an inventor’s manual, a creation myth, and an obituary—but the electric current humming through its heart is an achingly resonant love story. Sean Michaels orchestrates his first novel like a virtuoso.”
—Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“A fascinating novel! Told with grace and confidence, and in a finely wrought voice, Us Conductors kept surprising me to the end. I was swept from the speakeasies and artistic fervor of 1930s Manhattan to bleak, secretive Soviet Union prisons, and never once was the illusion shattered. Throughout the story, the themes of love and music sing like the pure, ethereal notes of the theremin.”
—Eowyn Ivey, author of the New York Times bestseller The Snow Child
“Sean Michaels revisits the story of Lev Termen with just the right amount of distortion and invention, drawing a fascinating parabola through the Roaring Twenties and down into the Cold War. An amazing, addictive novel, written with a sharp sense of rhythm.”
—Nicolas Dickner, author of Nikolski and Apocalypse for Beginners
“DZEEEEOOOoo! Just as hard as it is to make a theremin sing so it is hard to pull off a novel like this. But Sean Michaels does it. Us Conductors bridges body and soul, science and art, and like theremin music, it’s of this world and magical at the same time.”
—Ismet Prcic, author of Shards
“Michaels does an excellent job delving into Termen’s one true obsession, Clara, reflecting his never-ending inner dialogue with her that continues for days, months, years. . . . Whatever picture Michaels is trying to paint, he does so with great accuracy and potency. . . . Us Conductors is a novel of epic proportions and as we jump back and forth through time, Michaels engrosses the reader with well-thought-out imagery that paints pictures of vastly different scenes. . . . To come totally clean here, I forgot I wasn’t reading an autobiography and took in the story as if it were historical fact. . . . Michaels has a natural gift for bringing us to a time and place which allows the suspension of belief and lets you walk every step of the way with him.”
—Brendan Canning, The Globe and Mail
“I’ve been awaiting a book by Sean Michaels for a decade, ever since he helped create not only the online MP3 blog but his own form of criticism—imaginative, bird-like devices of prose that soar in and out of the paths of songs. In his novel, Us Conductors, Michaels finds his ideal subject in another inventor, the enigmatic Leon Termen, who with softly lit-up wisdom calls himself ‘a sound being sounded, music being made,’ amid the noise of history. Michaels’ voice will pass through you like live current and conduct you to parts unknown.”
—Carl Wilson, music critic for Slate.com and author of the acclaimed Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste
About the Author
Sean Michaels was born in Stirling, Scotland, in 1982. Raised in Ottawa, he eventually settled in Montreal, founding Said the Gramophone, one of the earliest music blogs. He has since spent time in Edinburgh and Kraków, written for the Guardian and McSweeney’s, toured with rock bands, searched the Parisian catacombs for Les UX, and received 2 National Magazine Awards.
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Top Customer Reviews
Based on Michaels' articulate, expansive, distilled and discreet (yes, all are possible at this feast!) telling of the story of Lev Theremin, I have now gone on to begin books on Soviet Gulags and other historical elements of this era. His storytelling is just that damn good - it opens up an entire landscape that calls to be discovered long after the last notes of his book play out.
Lev Termen invented the therimen around 1920 in Russia where he lived. It has been called the strangest musical instrument. The player does not touch this unique and eerie instrument but moves their hands through an electric current to produce music which seems to come out of the ether.
Us Conductors is the first novel by Sean Michaels, and is a fictionalized, award winning take on Termen's life and times. In reading history of Termen many of the major facts in this book actually happened,but his thoughts and conversations depend on the author's imagination. Termen married three times. I was unable to find evidence of his lifelong obsession and love of Clara Blackmore, a much younger American girl who becomes idolized as the world's greatest theremin player. However, he does return to America from Russia at age 95 and visits with her, so she had clearly been on his mind all those years.
While living in St. Petersburg in the 1920's , he not only invented the theremin to great acclaim and to which Lenin was a great fan, but also invented an early metal detector, a motion detector and a listening device used for spying. He was called the Thomas Edison of Russia.
He travels through Europe and then to America in hopes of popularizing the theremin and having it mass produced.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This was a really difficult book to read in terms of the author's writing style. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen which it never did, then it seemed to fizzle out... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Penny Mitton
I can't remember how or why or when I bought this book on Amazon, but have now read it in one sitting. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent writing. Very interesting story. I heard Sean Michaels speak and he was very charming, refreshing and informative. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Marilyn Tweyman
I couldn't understand why this got such rave reviews. The writing is good, but the characters are uninvolving. If I don't like the characters, I can't get into a story. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Honey
I'm surprised at all the enthusiastic reviews and that this was chosen for the Giller prize. Both my book club and my husband were underwhelmed. Read morePublished 10 months ago by cleo
A fascinating look at 2 worlds, 2 professions, true loves, life's switchbacks and disappointments and eternal optimism. A good read right to the end.Published 11 months ago by Gail Walker