Review: The Soloist
Steve Lopez is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. While he was searching for a story one day, he encountered Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless man playing a violin that was missing some strings. After talking to Nathanial for a while he discovered that he attended Juilliard and a column was born. Nathaniel struck a chord with Steve and the column struck a chord with the public. Several people offered instruments to Nathaniel and Steve delivered them to him with the condition that he store them at LAMP – the Los Angeles Men’s Project – so they won’t be stolen.
Steve Lopez developed a fondness for Nathaniel and worked hard to help him by contacting his sister, doctors and social workers. He pieced together Nathaniel’s background and discovered that schizophrenia destroyed Nathaniel’s dreams while he was studying at Juilliard. The two men develop a deep bond and Steve spends a lot of time with Nathaniel. He comes to realize that music is the best medicine for Nathaniel – it’s when he feels the most peaceful and calm. Steve is a wonderful advocate for Nathaniel and arranged music lessons, concerts and a visit from Nathaniel’s sister. Steve comes to think of Nathaniel almost like family and includes him in some family activities and dinners.
The Soloist by Steve Lopez is a wonderful book about the relationship between Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers. In it, Steve chronicles the ups and downs of their relationship and even questions his motives behind helping Anthony. The writing is crisp, yet Steve’s affection for Nathaniel is abundantly clear. Even though parts of this book are sad, I found it joyful and uplifting. I’ve always thought of myself as being pretty open-minded, but this book made me think about my attitudes toward homelessness and mental illness. Steve has done a tremendous amount of work to improve the quality of Nathaniel’s life, but he is quick to admit that their relationship means as much to him as it does to Nathaniel. In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book.
Here’s a great video with Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ayers: