Berkeley-Paris Express: A Lively Memoir of Studying Classical Music and Painting

Webster Young
Editions D'Auteurs (2012)
ISBN 9780615665917

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (2/13) 

Fascinating places. Fascinating times. Fascinating people. Incredible artwork. “Berkeley-Paris Express” by Webster Young contains the musings and education of an immensely talented young man who had the great luck - if one may call it that - to be blessed not only with talent, but also with opportunities.

If you’ve ever wondered how an artist truly gets educated, this is a very eye-opening book. If you are one of those people intensely curious about the creative process, you will not be disappointed. If Berkeley in the 1960s fascinates you, if the mere mentioning of the name “Paris” will always make you perk up, if Juilliard interests you, then by all means pick up “Berkeley-Paris Express.” Chances are that you will never listen to a symphony quite the same way again, or look at the paintings of any artist the way you did before. Webster Young holds the power of the true insider to make you see the things theretofore unseen. He also makes the reader realize that an artist will surely find a path all his own whether it’s part of the mainstream or not; like he did himself by following his desire to create music with more structure and meaning, as opposed to the then prevalent atonal and discordant compositions.

As fascinating as I found this narrative, it was sometimes difficult to read, with occasionally very convoluted sentences, sometimes erratic punctuation, and and overabundance of rather irrelevant details. Yes, I’ve said this before, but I will repeat it again – and certainly not for the last time. Oftentimes less is more.

Having said that, I most certainly do not wish to discourage a potential reader, since I truly enjoyed “Berkeley-Paris Express” by Webster Young both for the insights into the soul and mind of an artist, and for its excellent description of those places in a very interesting era.

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