Harpist and lawyer Judith Kogan’s Nothing But the Best, an account of student life at the elite and prestigious Juilliard School in New York, is a story not of lives but of deaths. The individual deaths of which she writes are those of the minds and souls of many, if not most, of our best young musicians. The more general death her book all too tragically sketches is that of music as the source of a transcendent commitment and fulfillment.
In many ways, it is Miss Kogan’s subject, and not her treatment of it, which requires that what she writes be taken seriously. Nothing But the Best is hardly a work of art in itself. Written in a banal style, it is prevailingly sentimental, indulging in a characteristic tone of what can only be called mawkish nihilism, in which florid suffering and pain are undergone for no final purpose and with no final meaning.