Friday, January 14, 2011

A fish called Wanda

I am glued this morning to David Dubal hashing over the respective memoirs of Byron Janis and Leon Fleisher in the Wall Street Journal.

Who knew that Janis had a romance with Wanda Horowitz -- daughter of Toscanini, wife of Vladimir?

I did not, I will tell you that right now! I was trailing after my husband this morning trying to talk to him about this. Howard was making his oatmeal, trying to get around me to the honey and raisins, trying to get me to go away.

Dubal, taking the high road, writes: 

"In a chapter titled 'Wanda,' we learn that, in his early 20s, Mr. Janis had an affair with Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, his teacher's wife. After 60 years, do we need this footnote to the tortured Horowitz marriage?"

We do indeed!

If Byron Janis is writing a memoir, how could he leave that out?

I cannot wait to read that chapter "Wanda." When I get my hands on this book I am going to skip right to it. 

That is Wanda and Vladimir up above, c. 1946, says the site from which I stole it. Dubal makes the point that she would have been horrified to have had that information in Janis' book made public. But you know what, you marry someone like Vladimir Horowitz, you better get used to the spotlight, even when you are dead. Especially when you are dead. Plus, I am tired of Horowitz being looked on as being this sacred being. 

And furthermore, Dubal wrote that book "Evenings with Horowitz" that contained a lot of personal details that I do not think Horowitz would have been crazy about getting out. There are people who see that book as unprofessional. I am not one of them, needless to say. I enjoyed the heck out of that book and think it is wonderful that Dubal got around to writing down all his experiences. 

Anyway, I am looking forward to reading Janis' book too even though it sounds kind of loopy, full of stuff about Uri Geller. Uri Geller, how 1970s. I have not heard that name in forever.

These pianists, I am telling you.

By the way, the "Fish Called Wanda" headline is not meant to imply that Wanda was a cold fish. I know not. I have not yet read Byron Janis' book. The headline was irresistible to me because my husband has a friend who was something of a ladies' man and finally got married and settled down. The friend is happy with his choice. "I got my fish," he says.

As we have discussed before, you can hear Byron Janis reading from his book here

He has his own inimitable style!


  1. I have heard that gay men sometimes refer to women as "fish". I don't believe it's supposed to be flattering.

    I've read the same books and pity Wanda. I don't know that I would have wanted to know her, but I don't think she ever had a fair chance to be all that she could be.

  2. By the way, was A FIsh Called Wanda actually a Cougar??