WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
"Readers who have ever been reduced to tears by the sound of a cello or transported by an aria on the radio will understand Perri Knize and her otherwise inexplicable quest for the voice of one particular piano. ...
Knize... explores the nature of music and its ability to touch us. Fascinating insights emerge as she strives to understand the metaphysics of music: how vibrations influence us, how music heals us, how indulging our desire for beauty seems to feed our very soul. She examines such esoteric concepts as sympathetic frequencies... and what it all means to us, musicians and nonmusicians alike.
To follow Knize on this crazy-quilt quest is to engage some of the deepest of life's questions: not just why and how music moves us but why and how we respond to beauty, to the world, to each other — and how a soul learns to thrive."
"[Knize] hooks you into her obsession with writing that is lucid yet lyrical, analytical yet deeply affecting. From the opening of her "prelude," you know you're in the hands of an observant naturalist with an artist's sensibility. ...
Throughout her journey, Knize introduces us to a fascinating mix of characters, ...[and her] description of each person is novelistic and evocative. ...
Along with its moving personal narrative, Grand Obsession offers a comprehensive lesson in piano making, piano tuning, piano delivery, piano everything, and it's all fascinating. ...
In Grand Obsession, Perri Knize has written a memoir about passion and ephemerality with lasting elegance and grace."
"In the best tradition of the memoir, Perri Knize’s Grand Obsession starts as a simple shopping expedition and ends in total existential collapse. ... It’s a mark of her deftness that despite the esoteric subject matter, it reads at the pace of a mystery and the pitch of a love story. ... By the end of the story, when Knize is told she “fell in love with an illusion,” it has the weight of tragedy. ...
In a world where few companies still value hand-craftsmanship, Grand Obsession reassures us there are still experts who know everything about something. ... Reading this book, you want to go out immediately and learn the piano, or at least visit a shop and stroke one."
"The reason for [my] sudden renewal of interest in music is Perri Knize's new book, Grand Obsession. And I think the Missoula author and I might agree that's the highest compliment I could pay to her work.
[This] memoir [has] the feel and pace of a psychological thriller. Will she find her piano? Will she recover its sound? And, just like in Raymond Chandler's
For me, Grand Obsession was intimately powerful: It changed the way I look at the world."
“Knize writes in a wonderfully evocative, lushly romantic style... music lovers will resonate to her mad pursuit of a gorgeous sound.”
"Articulating precisely the way music makes us feel may be nearly impossible, but Knize makes a commendable attempt, combining synesthetic flourishes of language with a journalistic attack on the experience. A well-written, heartfelt, classy paean to a singular instrument.”
The Buffalo News:
"The book reads like a novel — there is real drama in the quest, the triumph, loss, struggle, and the final denouement. ... I was hooked from the first page. ... Add passionate writing and a long metaphor for self-realization, and this book travels beyond the sphere of mere music."
American Music Teacher:
"The book reads like a detective story, one that will totally pull the reader in, and the passage of time in the narrative is handled so masterfully that it's easy to forget how long the author's quest took. But the obsession and passion of Perri Knize and her unflinching determination to recreate that sound... is truly inspiring.
Any listener who has ever been transfixed by the otherworldly sound of a truly magnificent piano will find an articulate kindred spirit in this author and in this story, and anyone who doubts the ability of music to touch and enrich the human spirit will have those doubts erased upon reading Grand Obsession."
"Some books are more unique than others.... Occasionally a book appears that is sui generis. It is so intense, so passionate, so powerfully and cleanly written that it changes the way the reader sees the world. Perri Knize’s Grand Obsession, the story of her quest for the perfect piano, is such a book.
Like Parsifal, Ishmael and many others... her pursuit of the ideal piano and the ideal sound is relentless, a quixotic adventure filled with unlikely twists and unexpected rewards.... It’s the medieval knight and the grail, the wild American sailor and the whale all over again.
For a music lover and especially for a piano lover, reading Knize’s gripping confessional tell-all is like a pubescent Boy Scout discovering Henry Miller.
Thrilling and heart-stopping, her account gives one serious pause in this digital age when all is bits and bytes. In a sense, Grand Obsession is a mystery story, not so much a who-dun-it as a how-does-it. How is it possible for six or eight thousand pieces of wood, metal, and felt to come together in a way that touches us like few other experiences?
[Knize's] reportorial skills are astonishing.... If pianos are important to you, read this book. If music is important to you, read this book. If the search for the good, the true, and the beautiful is important to you, read this book.
"Knize has crafted a poetic tribute to the piano. We rejoice upon her discovery of Marlene and sympathize when the instrument she loved in New York changes on its trip through blizzards to Montana where she makes her home. ... Warmly recommended for all collections."
"The quest seems straightforward—having heard the voice of her beloved, Perri Knize sets out to possess it. But what has she heard—the action of hammers on strings or the murmurings of her own heart? Grand Obsession begins as a book about finding the right piano and becomes more than that—a search for the sublime that poses a question essential to every reader, musical or not: how do we recognize, much less capture, the always fleeting object of desire?"