Piano Girl: A Review

Although I’m not generally a non-fiction reader, Robin Meloy Goldsby’s Piano Girl–more a collection of snapshots than straight up memoir–is a bright and fascinating peek into the life of a professional piano player. Beginning with Goldby’s teenage introduction to the biz–via a job in a bar on Nantucket, where Goldsby was paid in a mixture of food, cash, and advice–we skate through her time playing venues as diverse as lounges, high end hotels, and roadside motor inns. Some of Piano Girl’s stories are sweet, such as Goldsby’s time connecting with her unborn daughter while experimenting with her own compositions in a cozy lounge setting; others are outright disturbing, as with her frighteningly detailed sketch of the time she was stalked to and from her job at a ritzy hotel in New York. Despite the occasional anecdote worthy of an early I Love Lucy (abandoning her post at the piano to Heimlich an elderly patron without teeth), Goldsby’s narrative never slips into the macabre or ridiculous. Goldsby’s prose is rich and vivid (particularly for a collection of such short stories), but her true strength is character work. Even the most mundane seeming figures are lively and well-drawn, while the more, er, unique never cross the line from light and amusing into caricature or the grotesque. Nor is Goldsby a name-dropper; her writing about a friend and restroom attendant running a glamorous boutique out of the disabled stall in a well-to-do hotel is just as detailed as those portions about her associations with several big names (including the beloved “Mister” Fred Rogers), if not more so. But while the middle of...