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"Perfection is made up of trifles. But perfection is no trifle". It took me 15 years before I found out this was a quote from the Renaissance artist Michelangelo and not our Drum Major, Dom. (page 35)
That made me smile. The central character of Marching Band, Will, is a fallible human being, just about scraping through the trials that life throws at him, and in that respect he’s a thoroughly typical guy. The vast majority are not touched by genius, or even madness, and for that reason, the stories of geniuses tend to have a limited appeal. What we love to read about is some underdog, especially a young underdog, beating all the odds. Mr Todd offers a happy exploration of this theme. Will is a freshman, who’s already applied himself to the trumpet for years without outstanding success. And yet, he suddenly finds himself, against all the odds, accepted into his university’s prestigious marching band. He struggles hard to remain a member, falters, comes through a low point and finally snatches triumph from the jaws of failure.
There is one character who displays a certain amount of unthinking hostility, but on the whole this is an upbeat, cynic-free tale. What makes it a bit odd is that the opening section spends time pondering the story’s existential veracity. In other words, we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator – Mr Todd tells us so. This literary device seems a curious contrast to the noisy, showy, unreconstructed world of a marching band, and the universal, simple story of a child entering the adult world.
Mr Todd is a screen writer and possibly this accounts for his need to analyse his prose. The screen version of this story, however, looks to have been far harder to write than the prose version. You can check this for yourself, because Mr Todd has appended the film script version. No doubt, studying this will be very instructive for those interested in a career in script writing.
All in all, an entertaining and charmingly eccentric YA novel.