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Home > Author > Vaughn Petterson
Vaughn Petterson

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  Vaughn Petterson           

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Born in Massachusetts. B.A in Italian and English literature. A lover of classical music and art. Lived and studied in Florence, Italy for several years.

Background Information

The major influence in writing my novel Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis was my love of music, especially classical music. I wanted to convey not only a love of music but also how  music could and did emotionally  and intellectually impact the main characters of the book . To a lesser extent I also used art and literature  with the same intention in mind.  First and foremost the book is a love story but a love story with several intertwining themes, namely  a bitter commentary on the superficiality of today's society.Certain levels of society are exposed as being hypocritical where many people are leading superficial lives in a sexually degenerate wasteland. There is also an underlyng theme in trying to grasp for the meaning of our existence using much philosophical speculation and also using various works of music, art and literature. When these philosophical thoughts are shown to be futile the theme of love between two seemingly diverse personalities, Joe and Maria, begins to predominate . This love becomes not only a love story between a man and a woman but also the  love at the joy of being alive, most especially represented by the character of Joe who realizes through Maria the superficial life he had led with his buddies and ex lovers earlier were not enough for him to lead a complete, fulfilling life. My intention was to show Joe, a rich, handsome, cynical, worldy man dissatisfied with his life and society being changed through his love of a humble, disabled, immigrant woman who shows him through her love of the arts and most especially her love of life how beautiful life can be even amongst all the injustice and hate in the world and the final tragedy that hits them.

Birth Place
Winthrop, MA U.S.A


Title: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Author: Vaughn Petterson
Rating: Very Good!
Publisher: Createspace
Web Page:
Reviewed by: Eric Jones
# How to use the database of reviews
I have always been of the opinion that music cannot be translated through text. There are many counters to this opinion which are valid. After all, lyrics can certainly give recreate a feeling of rhythm and there is always sheet music. But for me music, real music, happens in performance and in listening. Vaughn Petterson does a good job of describing the music of Vaughan Williams work during a particular scene in his new book, “Fantasia: on a Theme of Thomas Tallis”, also titled from a musical work of Williams’. The descriptions of the music in the concert serve as a kind of parallel for the journey of the novel’s protagonist, Joe, and do a good job of reflecting how the overall book works. It’s interesting to see music so vividly interpreted for the page, and has some wonderful turns, but as I said, the translation is not without fault.

The story of Joe is one of the broken American dream. Joe is a day trader whose luck has taken a turn for the worse. His wife leaves him for another man, his money is all but gone, and all of his friends are liberal elitists who shun him for his conservative opinions. He needs to rebuild, and does so after meeting a beautiful Mexican immigrant named Maria, who rekindles his spirit and leads him to a renewed since of vigor. Along the way, Petterson seems to attack themes across the board, from politics to philosophy, many of which only touch the main plot arc, but these points seem important to Petterson. Those who share similar thoughts of life will agree him and find safe haven in “Fantasia”, but those who don’t are not likely to find themselves persuaded.

The concert scene is a chief example of this, since it’s descriptions of music are so heavily text-laden that they seem to swallow up the chief purpose of the scene, which is that Maria and Joe share a spiritual connection through this music. The scene might be an attempt to trace a parallel between the tragedy and joy of Joe and Maria’s life together, but since the topics that the music covers are so broad, and so far reaching, they could be a parallel for anything. Not to mention that it wouldn’t take nearly so many pages to illustrate such a parallel. I’m more apt to believe that it is an attempt to make the reader actually hear the music through Petterson’s description of it, which is problematic for reasons I’ve already described. Also, important of note is that often Petterson’s opinion is blatant enough to skew the reader’s perspective.

Another scene in which this happens is during a lengthy argument that Joe has at a party with his liberal friends. The conversation turns ugly after somebody mentions that harder immigration laws are racist, and Joe begs to differ. The point of this scene is that Joe doesn’t fit in with his wife’s crowd, and that their marriage is ultimately doomed, but in the interest of political debate, the scene goes on much further than needed. Here again, if you are apt to agree with Petterson, then you might not mind the digression, but much of it isn’t necessary to further the story. These philosophical asides can even hinder the story at times, when it becomes obvious that characters are being unreasonable merely in the interest of making the author’s point. The doctor who insists on euthanizing his patient when there is clearly a chance that the patient could survive is another example. Why would a doctor do this? Because doctors are bureaucratically minded soulless individuals, of course.

It’s important to note that these asides do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. I enjoyed the first chapter as much as I did the last, reveling in the combination of satire, drama, and a parade of allusions that become so thick that the book should have an index. But they do damage the pacing of the book, making it a slow ride through Petterson’s worldview. It will draw in a great deal of readers, and turn away many others. The greatest point of “Fantasia: on a Theme of Thomas Tallis” is that by the end of it you will stand firmly on Petterson’s side, or firmly on the opposite. And that, ultimately, is Petterson’s point.

Additional Information

From ForeWord Clarion Review: "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, which takes its title from a Vaughan Williams musical composition, is a novel that blends timely social theory and ethical questions with discussions of music and art...Petterson displays a deeply personal grasp of classic art and music...readers may be caught up in the author's passion."

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Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

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