Summary: For the distinguished critic Agustín Cabán, music is indispensable to sexual emotion. Forced to retire from his San Juan newspaper, Agustín is writing his memoirs, which describe his long career seducing the women and men who were among the most brilliant classical musicians in the world.The Australian pianist Clint Verret offered a passionate and tender interlude. Clarissa Berdsley, the French horn player, was submissive and playful. The flamboyant violinist Manuela Suggia turned out to be a vengeful and demonic lover.
In Deep Purple, Mayra Montero explores the relationship between sexual desire and music. For Agustín Cabán ultimately finds, in that deep and mysterious place that is the core of human sexuality, nothing less than the meaning of life.
Deep Purple, by Mayra Montero 7.5
I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to request Mayra Montero’s ‘Púrpura profundo’ from the library. In fact, until I did a quick search for the band Deep Purple (merely out of curiosity), I had no idea who she was, let alone that this novel existed.
But I was immediately drawn by the brief description on the library’s website, which promised an exploration of “the relationship between sexual desire and music”. As a melomaniac, I was interested in reading the exploits of the book’s protagonist, a lustful music critic.
In my experience, music can be used to affect and adjust one’s mood, and it’s obvious to almost anyone that certain types of music are more conducive to sensuality than others. I was very curious to see what kind of insight Montero would provide through the experiences of her protagonist.
Truth be told, another quality attracted me to the book: its title and corresponding cover (at least, in North America). I just couldn’t help but to think of the colour one can find in a woman’s lips when flush with desire; looking at that purple cover, all I could think of was sex.
Perhaps this is what clouded by mind, but I had imagined the protagonist to be a woman – not paying attention to the fact that Agustin is a man’s name. I might simply have transposed the writer’s gender on her own character, but I was completely taken aback when I realized he was a man.
Especially since it dawned on me only when he boasted of his extensive sexual conquests, including a few men.
For some reason, I had never expected this in an erotic novel – especially one written by a woman (even though I’ve known women who were turned on by man-on-man sex). I should have, as nothing excludes this possibility, but my narrow mind prevented me from even considering it.
This revelation was nothing shocking, truth be told: it’s not like I haven’t been exposed to guy-on-guy sex in my various readings or viewing. Hardly. In fact, I remember going to the cinema in the mid-’90s to see a film that was homocentric, and finding the mood in the room intoxicating.
The book’s content was merely unexpected, is all.
What was shocking, however, was the extent to which some of the book’s passages turned me on. Maybe it’s due to being jaded, but it’s not as though everything I read or watch has an effect on me, no matter how explicit it is. It has to set the correct tone and stroke the brain the right way.
Anyway, ‘Deep Purple’ did that in parts. There was this particular passage when Agustin decides to seduce a replacement pianist, taking her to the conservatory to watch her play before going out to dinner together. The way he described the intense perfectionism of a virtuosa stimulated my imagination.
And the oral sex wasn’t bad either: I could almost feel it.
This was but one side story, mind you: most of the books revolves around Agustin’s relations with Virginia, a violinist, and Clint Verret, a pianist. Neither were especially arousing, but they were interesting: I enjoyed his interpretations of these musicians’ behaviours – and his own.
These two stories were developed in turn throughout the book, divided by other side stories, such as the one with Alejandrina. What was fascinating about them was the way that Agustin would describe the qualities of each musician, how the instrument they played affected their sexuality.
It made me want to discover if this was true. God, I wish I knew some (female) musicians…
In some ways, ‘Deep Purple’ feels like a collection of erotic short stories, but with the same protagonist and context at its centre. It’s episodic because Agustin recounts all of this to Sebastián, his old editor, a man who lusts vicariously through Agustin’s stories, reading every word he’s written.
‘Deep Purple’ ends with the suggestion that there would be a follow-up, with Agustin leaving Sebastián hanging over a few stories, promising that he will tell him. Later. Unfortunately, Montero has not yet published these stories, leaving us hanging as well in the process.
If she ever releases ‘Deepest Purple’, you can be sure that I will be one of the first in line to read it. Until then, however, it’s very likely that I will seek out some of her other books. If she was able to set me alight, there’s a good chance that she will be able to again.
I’m willing to go deep, if need be, to experience that again.
Post scriptum: I kept the English title because it was translated from Spanish to English by Edith Grossman, and I believe that the original flavour has been changed somewhat in the process. Hence I read ‘Deep Purple’, not ‘Púrpura profundo’.