Amy Gerstler
An Offer Received in this Morning's Mail:

    (On misreading an ad for a set of CDs entitled "Beethoven's Complete Symphonies.")




The Musical Heritage Society

invites you to accept

Beethoven's Complete Sympathies.

A full $80.00 value, yours for $49.95.

The brooding composer

of "Ode to Joy" now delighting

audiences in paradise nightly

knows your sorrows. Just look

at his furrowed brow, his thin

lipped grimace. Your sweaty

2 A.M. writhings have touched

his great Teutonic heart. Peering

invisibly over your shoulder

he reads those poems you scribble

on memo pads at the office,

containing lines like o lethal blossom,

I am your marionette forever,

and a compassionate smile trembles

at the corners of his formerly stern

mouth. (He'd be thrilled to set

your poems to music.) This immortal

master, gathered to the bosom of his ancestors over a century ago

has not forgotten those left behind

to endure gridlock and mind-ache, 

wearily crosshatching the earth's surface

with our miseries, or belching complaints

into grimy skies, further besmirching

the firmament. But just how relevant

is Beethoven these days, you may ask.

Wouldn't the symphonies of a modern 

composer provide a more up-to-date

form of solace? Well, process this info-byte,

21st century skeptic. A single lock

of Beethoven's hair fetched over $7,000

last week at auction. The hairs were then

divided into lots of two or three and resold 

at astronomical prices. That's how significant

he remains today. Beethoven the great-hearted,

who used to sign letters ever thine,

the unhappiest of men, want you

to know how deeply sorry he is

that you're having such a rough time.

Prone to illness, self-criticism

and squandered affections—

Ludwig (he'd like you to call him that,

if you'd do him the honor,)

son of a drunk and a depressive,

was beaten, cheated, and eventually

went stone deaf. He too had to content

himself with clutching his beloved's

toothmarked yellow pencils

(at the tortured scrawls in his notebooks

show) to sketch out symphonies, concerti,

chamber music, etcetera—works

that still brim, as does your disconsolate

soul, with unquenched fire and brilliance.

Give Beethoven a chance to show

how much he cares. East financing

available. And remember:

a century in heaven has not calmed

the maestro's celebrated temper, so act now.

For god's sake don't make him wait.

Found In Volume 31, No. 06
Read Issue
  • amy gerstler
Amy Gerstler
About the Author

Amy Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work, including White Marriage/Recovery (1984), was highly praised. Gerstler's more recent works include Nerve Storm (1993), Medicine (2000), Ghost Girl (2004), and Dearest Creature (2009), which the New York Times named a Notable Book of the Year.