Fran Edelstein
author, journalist

Set to Music… And Other Stories

Do we actually believe that we make all of our choices? Or do some of them choose us?


Set to Music is a collection around a central theme: Heart... the constant sparking of which programs our daily lives with challenges and choices, though we may be unaware.


Spanning six countries and two continents, the title short story "Set to Music", tells of Anne, a pianist faced with an overwhelming obstacle that only love -- and perhaps even a miracle -- can transcend. 


An Island resort provides a quiet retreat for a parent's soul-searching in "Head Over Heart", while "Deedu" is a tender and engaging story about a special friendship between a child and a Russian immigrant.


Sweeping away time, two World War II survivors uniquely relive their past as they meet again in "Lilacs", and life and death in a hospital morgue create a curious dialogue about how we as humans navigate this world in "The Paper Boat".


In "The Road Ahead", doubts and fears turn to triumphs for a group of actors encountering a major detour as they head for the Eiffel Tower. And "The Mantilla" tells the riveting story of how a Spanish dancer's head-dress spreads its mischief as it travels from one destination to another.

Excerpts & Author Comments…


"Read a lot, and write what you know," are the first pieces of advice students receive at the onset of a course in creative writing.  The Mantilla is written in four parts. The first part takes place in Mexico. I'd been to Mexico. Okay then, let's go! ... Through the vindictive choice of Carmelita, a young woman who has just been spurned, the story establishes its witchery in a piece of lace that goes on to cast its mischief throughout the remaining chapters:


"Scalding tears scorch a proud mouth. One does not do such thing to Carmelita. Not ever, in her nineteen years of life! Not even that son of a steel magnate, likening her to some discarded piñata whose streams of gratuities has run out! It is a smudge on her campagna of conquests! Cursing the day she encountered the man, Carmelita is bound up in a rage that unleashes a viper in her bosom. She strokes the edges of the lace mantilla, and with a venomous smile fondles its delicacy as one would a weapon."


But her choice is not the choice of the mantilla!




The title story Set to Music is a combination of choices and the absence of choice, the delight and despair and the futility. The main character is a young piano virtuoso who is losing her sight because of a fall from a horse. While on an engagement at Command Performance in London, she seeks a further diagnosis:


"How long will it be?" she asked the specialist.

"A year, two or three...or more. It can be slow; we hope so," Ted Naftoly responded with a glance through the window of his Grey's Inn office, as though a more promising diagnosis might be found in the English garden below."That bad tumble, the shadows crossing your vision...what you are experiencing has been caused by severe traumatic injury resulting in vision loss affecting both eyes"


The ensuing choices...through love and loss... create the miracle.



Divorce. Few families in this millenium have not been touched by it. Head Over Heart, tells of a parent's dilemma while trying to prevent her child from heading in that direction.


"It's easy to be wise," she says. "But so hard to be right."


Head over Heart leaves the choice to.... you'll need to read it to find out.




The Road Ahead, centered on a group of student actors en route to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, offers choices balanced by willingness, humility and strength:


"It is explained by saying what these troopers didn't want to be: doctors, lawyers, business people, secretaries, all in a hurry. The choice to be artists might present delays and discomforts, but would likely be compensated by a widening of their vistas. Collectively their creative voices agreed that they would reach the Tower only by allowing the journey to lead them... on foot."


How many choose to make it, what they encounter, how they arrive...are left to the reader.




What made me choose these themes? I'm not sure. I strongly believe that some of them chose me. For The Paper Boat, I am doubly sure. My neighbor, an O.R. nurse, knew I'd pick up on her experience when she told me about being locked in the hospital cooler with the body of a killer for several moments that seemed like several days... by her admission, propelled by her own curiosity:


"The chamber darkened and tipped from corner to corner, an angry room like a clumsy cube tossed by a raging sea. From a window high above, a shaft of light floated along webs of mist seeping through its tightly-closed sash, with gauzy sherds breaking away like predators prowling for their target, to spiral toward a young woman crouched in a corner in fear. What strange force had dragged her through those double doors? Never had she found herself in such a peck of trouble!

A rustle brought a rush of air, an icy caress. Her cry was faint. 'Who's there?' "


The Paper Boat is full of choices.




The story of Deedu, written in the language of a 4-year-old fascinated with words and testing her vocabulary, tells of the love between an old man and a very little girl, and the wondrous choice made by him.