I was over-analyzing again the prospects of my novel yesterday when I happened to notice the two-volume biography of Adolf Busch ("The Life of an Honest Musician") lined along the wall with my other books. It matters to understand what follows that the biography is 1,200 pages long and my records show I paid $91 for it on Amazon.com. Yes, $91, based on a glowing review I read in Opera News (without which I would never have heard about it, which reminded me of Joseph Brodsky's bio and The New Yorker - see this post of mine for details).
Adolf Busch (1891-1952) was a German musician who, although he was not Jewish, left Germany in the late 1920s because he was sickened by the rise of the Third Reich. He went on to fund the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, and also gave the Busch Quartet its name. He is briefly mentioned in my novel, and might serve as inspiration for future work too. Even if I don't write about him again, I feel he is one of the most remarkable figures of the Nazi period, since he left his native country so early at what must have been great personal cost.
Anyway, I happened to look at those two enormous volumes I haven't had a chance to open yet, and it occurred to me there aren't too many people out there willing to go through 1200 pages on Adolf Busch, all famous that he was in his heyday. The book is currently ranked 913,607th on Amazon.com. Think about the time and the research that must have gone into a book like that. The painstaking scholarship. The double-checking and the triple-checking of facts.
And for what? Certainly not to make the best-seller lists. I imagine a few hundred readers might ever read this labor of love by Tully Potter, who does not appear to have ever published anything else beside a book of poems in 1975. If he had cared about wide readership, the world would not have this biography of Adolf Busch - this portrait in courage by a man who said no to Hitler and left an amazing legacy in classical music, as a violinist, as a composer and as a supporter of chamber music - and we would all be the poorer for it.