“Those who have followed Joe Fiorito’s career, from his early columns for the Montreal Gazette to his superb memoir The Closer We Are to Dying, will not be surprised to discover that he’s also capable of writing excellent fiction. They may, however, be surprised to find that his first novel is not a piece of gritty social realism, but a highbrow work that owes as much to the history of classical music as it does to Fiorito’s intimate understanding of every place he has ever called home.
The Song Beneath the Ice boasts two enchanting narrators. The first is Joe Serafino, a journalist who, like Fiorito, grew up in northwestern Ontario, made his name in Montreal, and resides in Toronto, writing hardboiled yet poetic studies from life in the manner of Joseph Mitchell. Serafino is a lifelong friend of a first-rate concert pianist, Dom Amoruso–an artist who dresses like Wittgenstein, has a penchant for Musorgsky and Scriabin, and lives in the shadow of his distinguished predecessor, Glenn Gould. In the midst of a recital at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Amoruso mysteriously disappears, and over a year later, Serafino receives a package in the mail, postmarked Wolf Cove, Northwest Territories. The package contains a number of notebooks and audiocassettes documenting the months before and after Amoruso’s disappearance–including everything from private rehearsals to his most intimate trysts. Serafino methodically sets out to transcribe the tapes and notebooks, which take him (and Fiorito’s readers) on a tour of Toronto’s arts community, up to the bloody world of the deep North, and, briefly, back to postwar Fort William.
Some readers may be put off by the meandering, unbroken narrative wash of The Song Beneath the Ice. There are no chapters here, no great divisions of any kind–just the ongoing torrent of Amoruso’s notebooks and recordings, interspersed with Serafino’s commentary. But the rush of the composer’s story and the journalist’s counterpoint are essential to Fiorito’s agenda: The Song Beneath the Ice is Fiorito’s own idea of North, and it is arguably the most compulsively readable transcription of musique concrète–music constructed from found sounds–ever published. Fiorito has written a surprisingly avant-garde book, one that is all the more remarkable for being an accessible and delicious pleasure read. Anyone with more than a passing interest in Gould, the introspective perils of art, or the uncomfortable ongoing dialogue of Canadian geography, art, and nationalism must read this novel. –Jack Illingworth –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.”
“Fiorito expertly captures the cultural ferment of 1990s Toronto.”
“Note perfect. Intelligent from its intriguing first notes to its enigmatic conclusion.”
–Globe and Mail
“In this complex novel saturated with sound, barely a false note is sounded.”