Book Reviews492 Fanfare November/December 2022NovDec 2022 46.2.qxp_c 9/25/22 10:13 AM Page 493 THE PERFECT SOUND: A Memoir in Stereo. By garrett hongo. new york: pantheon, 2022. 526 pp. cloth. $30

With this wide-ranging and lyrical memoir, Garrett Hongo joins a small club of gifted authors who have turned writing about music into literature. The prose is beautifully written, alternately colloquial, spare, and baroque, but in a way that offers variety, not incongruity. Music itself is stereographic in the narrative, simultaneously central and existing on the periphery, depending on how the light hits it. It is at once the core of the book and the connective tissue that holds together an expansive meditation on memory, life, race, and all things in between. A single subject, the search for better-sounding audio equipment, serves as a point of entry for readers. This develops quickly into a polyphony that weaves equal parts biography, Impressionistic memoir, and social commentary, all through the lens of the soundtrack of Hongo’s life and the equipment on which he has heard it. Readers will smile knowingly as he describes frustration at the clipping of operatic voices on small, anemically powered speakers and at the inevitability of graduating to progressively more expensive and more involved audio equipment. On reading about tinkering with his father on stereo equipment they will recall time with their own parents. Hongo’s evocative accounts of the characters who have populated his life will surely give readers pause to remember with amusement the quirks and foibles of the characters that have populated theirs. Hongo describes growing up in Hawaii and Los Angeles, navigating what it meant to be Asian-American in postwar America, making his career as a writer and academic, negotiating personal relationships along the way. Through it all, the “search for the perfect sound” is both a metaphor and a foil, providing meaning and coherence to Hongo’s story. This stands on its own as an engaging and sophisticated piece of writing and as a testament to the pervasive power of music in our lives. Highly recommended. James V. Maiello

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