The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchive Issue 14
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Fortescue "Kid Spats" Deepelum


                         In the first place maybe he shouldn’t have got himself mixed up with
                        negroes.  It gave him a funny slant on things and he never got over it.
                        It gave him a feeling for undisciplined expression, a hot, direct
                        approach, a full-throated ease that never did him any final good in
                        his later dealings with those of his race, those whom civilization has
                        whipped into shape, those who can contain themselves and play
                        what’s written.

                                    --Dorothy Baker, Young Man with a Horn

Jazz and blues directly influenced literary prose as well as poetry, in both form and content. Fascination with the underworld and the raffish origins of jazz and blues (as popularly misunderstood) was one bottomless source of lurid tales and films.  A background of  “wild music”—jazz groups, swing bands, saloon pianists, blues bands or singers—was nearly de rigeur  as appropriate mood music for films noir , for crime stories, for any popular drama requiring a tincture of familiar social evil.  While actual musicians were sometimes used in bit parts or supporting roles to embody this second-hand sleaze (or glamor), most often the presence was merely short-handed with a few strokes, or in films a brief establishing shot that accounted for a jazzy soundtrack.  But beyond these stereotyping literary graffiti were attempts to treat the music thematically as important in and of itself and as symptomatic of broader issues, problems or motifs defining American society.  Jazz meant many things to many people, but it clearly was invested with meaning.
            Through the Harlem Renaissance, jazz was often evoked for setting and ambience, and occasionally secondary characters were identified as musicians, few writers used the musician-as-artist as a major theme. James Weldon Johnson’s anonymously-published Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) is a fine, realistic short novel about the life of an itinerant ragtimer, but it focuses more on gritty details of African-American life on the color line and the vexed question of “passing” than with the music itself.   Poet-novelist Claude McKay wrote Banjo (1929), which skirts the idea but is set in France and more focused on McKay’s basic themes and observations—the development of a pan-black society, including Caribbean peoples like himself, and the place of black artists in that community.  In the late 1920s, North Carolina sociologist and ethnologist Howard W. Odum, Jr., wrote several naturalistic novels—a trilogy about an itinerant blues singer called Black Odysseus, Rainbow Round My Shoulder, Wings on My Feet and Cold Blue Moon—that try to create a realistic picture of itinerant southern bluesmen and their contexts, drawn from his extensive research, song-collecting and interviews with many musicians, but his work is more like “ghosted” biography or covert social analysis than fully realized fiction. Odum’s prose is also heavy on the plantation dialect and often clichéd.  Carl Van Vechten’s controversial N*gger
[1] Heaven  (1926) contained lurid vignettes of Harlem high- and low-life, including the musical scene, but was more in the vein of mannered satire than of detailed observation (a loss, since Van Vechten knew more about the African-American musical context of the day than other white observers).
            The first clearly identifiable “jazz novel” to employ the research and attention focusing on the music in the 1930s was Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn  (1938), explicitly based on the biography of Leon Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931), creating a tragic-hero model for fiction that founded a subgenre of sordid melodrama and expose.  Jazz fiction has never entirely shaken this typing, and it recurs in recent works like British author Geoff Dyer’s compelling essay/novel hybrid But Beautiful  (1996), based in part on the slow self-destruction of 1960s saxophone star Art Pepper (as related in his autobiography Straight Life  [1979]) and other cautionary jazz biographies—of Lester Young, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, etc.  Significantly, this element of voyeuristic fascination is with sordid details of drug use and addiction in the jazz subworld, as Baker mirrors Beiderbecke’s alcoholism and self-neglect.  I think this is a basically white approach to the subject, a cautionary message that the jazz world is full of attractive vices that can undermine and destroy an otherwise “normal” and “nice” young man.  It is a version of picaresque, like the novellas of the sixteenth century that chronicled the temptations and pitfalls of the city awaiting young men in search of their fortunes and were written in the hip jargon of the period—thieves’ and conmen’s cant, the dialects of the London underworld.

Young Man with a Horn
            Baker’s melodrama begins with a disingenuous prefatory note saying “The inspiration for the writing of this book has been the music, but not the life, of a great musician, Leon (Bix) Beiderbecke, who died in the year 1931.” This gives Baker license to raid the facts of the cornetist’s career (as known in 1938) but to embroider the biography and universalize it into a generic tale of a “young man” in the jazz life.
            The protagonist, Rick Martin, is described as a typical American boy, on a vague Huck Finn model, exposed to the allure of the new music— dives, poolrooms, dance halls are his schooling in the music that hypnotically attracts him—and he finds various tutors in itinerant jazzmen who see his obvious talent and nurture his inclinations.  It is a reasonably authentic story of apprenticeship to the new music, sometimes romantically described but often convincing in details. (An odd dimension of the novel is its California setting, a highly detailed description of Los Angeles and the West Coast music scene, as if the Mississippi Valley had been magically transposed across the continent to be handy to Hollywoodland for the cinematic mise en scene of the drama.  I have never seen a comment on this socio-geographical aspect of Baker’s tale.)  A prologue summarizes Rick’s tale from a narrator’s viewpoint, noting, “He was a sensation among musicians . . . . He loved his work.  He had something and he knew it.  He never got tired, kept it up night after night, and after he got through with the night’s dance he’d get together with other men from other bands who were interested in seeing how far they could go, and then he’d really play the rest of the night.” (Baker 2)
            Rick’s life is described laconically, measured by classical literary  principles:
  That's the story, and it could never be called a grand tragic theme; it does not depict the fall of a noble person from high to low estate—Rick Martin never got anywhere near high estate, though he did make a lot of money for a while.  But it is a story that has the ring of truth and an overtone or two.  It is the story of a number of things—of the gap between the man’s musical ability and his ability to fit it to his own life; of the difference between the demands of expression and the demands of life here below; and finally of the difference between good and bad in a native American art form—jazz music. (3)
This essay-like commentary, closely echoing Nick Carraway’s meditative narration in The Great Gatsby, works better than the dramatic scenes and dialogue of the novel, which often seem forced, over-dramatized or false.
            The narration continues with broad assertions that caricature the jazz experience:
  He expected too much from [the music] and he came to it with too great a need. And what he expected he never quite found.  He might have found it in another kind of music, but he had no training or any way of coming to know another kind of music.  So he stuck to jazz and to the nervous, crazy life that goes with it. (4)
This is abruptly reductionistic, given the outline of Beiderbecke’s life—he did know “other kinds of music” rather well (as did most jazz musicians), and “no training” echoes the myth of the untutored, intuitive ear-playing “savage” genius that even by 1938 was a hackneyed notion.  And the flat generalization “nervous, crazy life” is cartoonishly diminishing.
            A few paragraphs later, the narrative voice assumes self-conscious irony about the persistent reductionism of popular fictions:
  You could, of course, twist Rick’s life into a fiction and write off a clear-cut commercial story about a good-looking young man who went to New York and joined a big-time dance band.  You could have him smoke Marihuana once or twice, just for the hell of it; and tell whom he loved and all the rest of it.
This is not the burden of Baker’s story:  “But this can’t be that.  This one has to be the story of a young man who, without even knowing what it was, had a talent for creating music as natural and as fluent as—oh, say Bach’s.” (5)
            The summary ends with a resounding pronouncement, which unfortunately inflates expectations for the rather modest story that follows:
  Our man is, I hate to say it, an artist, burdened with that difficult baggage, the soul of an artist.  But he hasn’t got the thing that should go with it—and which I suppose it seldom does—the ability to keep the body in check while the spirit goes on being what it must be.  And he goes to pieces, but not in any small way.  He does it so thoroughly that he kills himself doing it. (6)
The inflated phrase “soul of an artist” and the clumsy statement of the old soul-body dichotomy do not bode well for the whole novel that follows, as if Baker cannot settle on a sophisticated view while creating a demotic voice for her story.  It wants to be carefully analytical but plain-spoken, intellectual and “just folksy” at once, a division that fatally undermines the fiction.
            A model for jazz fiction shaped here is not the triumphant optimism of Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck learns he “can’t pray a lie” by defending slavery, resolves to violate the conventions of his middle-class culture by running away, befriending and protecting a runaway  “n*gger” and ultimately lights out for the territory ahead of the rest, to find freedom and self-fulfillment away from the priggish, hypocritical “sivilization” of Aunt Polly and her sort.  Young Man with a Horn is closer to the nineteenth-century Romantic myth of the oppressed and doomed artist, the self-consciously arty outcast of La Vie Boheme or the archetypal “young man with a pen,” Thomas Chatterton, the eighteenth-century forger-fantasist, who was recalled by William Wordsworth in Resolution and Independence as the emblem of the youthful romantic visionary driven to death by a heedless, materialist society.  As Wordsworth phrases it in hindsight:
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
The model is not convincing when applied to African-American music from the outside-in, without understanding what musicians believed they were doing with their art, whose utilitarian aims were far different from those genteel directions of romantic, bourgeois literature. 
           Baker constructs a fairly convincing, naturalistic mock-biography for Martin.  She is better on the matter-of-fact details of the music business than on Martin’s motivation or self-understanding, as when she describes Martin’s apprenticeship with a big band:
  There were twenty men in Morrison’s orchestra [cf., Paul Whiteman’s orchestra], and two arrangers, one girl vocalist and a vocal trio.  It was an organization, and almost as businesslike as an insurance company.  They rehearsed three afternoons a week and Morrison drove them like slaves.  But when they were on the stand everything worked like a charm; the boys knew what was wanted, and Phil Morrison stood up in front aimlessly waving a stick, so genial and relaxed that you’d get the idea he didn’t know what was going on.  Not so, though; one false move in that band and you were seeking employment. (171)
The novel is a precursor of the “Organization Man” tales of the 1950s (Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit [1955], etc.) that detailed the processes by which large, soulless businesses sucked the life and creativity from hopeful young talent.            Further analysis of the music business shows more of the anti-commercial/pro-art slant that shapes the novel and defines Rick Martin as a tragic artist type:
. . . for a big orchestra, and a society orchestra, it was good.  The way Rick Martin’s trumpet used to spring up above the rest of their heads would make you think it was a great orchestra, and Rick wasn’t the only good man in it, either; there was a fiddler [cf. Joe Venuti] who made you think twice, and a man who blew as good trombone as you’ll hear anywhere in public.  But it wouldn’t do to call it a great orchestra because it pandered to all tastes and there was always that grandiose ending.  It was just a good big orchestra, playing out its nightly schedule at one big hotel or another, working for money . . . (172)
It is thus a tale of art vs. commerce often retailed by 1930s and ’40s proto-critics of jazz and swing, who disdained “corny” bands, “sweet” or “mickey mouse” bands as fiendish temptations that drew pure-minded young jazz artists from the pursuit of artistic perfection, part of the way “hot” and “swing” were held up as enterprises informed by mercenary motives.  It is, of course, a fabrication and idle dream.  Popular music has always been market-shaped and market-driven, and the success of musical products is measured as ruthlessly by serial-production standards as any other form of manufacture.  The ambiguous role of the creative artist in the complex formula of popular music making has always been a source of controversy—but not necessarily the materials of tragedy.
            Martin finds role models in poor, unappreciated black musicians and carefree whites who live for late-night jam sessions.  He runs into a glamorous band singer who falls deeply in love and is willing to sacrifice herself for him.  He has nothing but unearned good luck, and we know his smiling fortune must be followed by a fall, given the old rules of poetic justice.  Like a mythic hero, he seems a demigod sprung from the earth, without background or mortal parents, and he is also more like a musical instrument, a perfect device for music-making, than an individual human:
  He was a musician’s musician, that’s how it started.  The boys in the trade accepted him the way they’d accept a flawless reed or an improved mouthpiece.  Nobody resented him, because he’d sprung full-blown into New York . . . . he hadn’t climbed up over anybody’s head.  He just appeared and took his rightful place and stayed in it. (169-70)
But Rick Martin succumbs to dissolute living, alcohol, despair over the evanescent and unvalued nature of his music.  He dies like an abandoned soul, carried off in an ambulance by a “cure doctor” and two orderlies, thrust into a strait jacket.  His friend Smoke witnesses his last moments:
He looked down and saw Rick’s face.  He watched, stunned, and while he was watching, Rick died.  He could tell when it happened.  There was a difference. (243)
As Baker has said, her story lacks the grandeur of tragedy, and Martin is not clearly enough defined as a real character to elicit more than sympathy for his end, a sense that his loss is pitiful or pathetic.
            Rick’s friend and loyal sidekick Smoke reports his end with flat irony, and we are left feeling this is just another popularization of the tragic artist theme, a subgenre of popular literature that yields up cartoonish views of the “great artist” type as rebellious, romantic hero—versions of the tale have been cut to fit the biographies of Michaelangelo, Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh and many others, usually with the words “lust” or “passion” imbedded in the titles.  The archetype is invariably remote from the facts of history and biography but meets a need for a simplified, convenient way to understand art through the figures of artists.  Baker’s novel started a trend for jazz fiction in this monotonous groove. 
            Later writers created substantial works of literary art closer to the reality of the early jazz life by avoiding melodrama.  Two worth comparing, though their stories and methods are very different, are Ishmael Reed, in Mumbo Jumbo (1972), a wildly anarchic ride through the sociopolitical history of the 1920s, and Michael Ondaatje, in Coming through Slaughter (1976), a poetic, postmodern reconstruction of the brief career of New Orleans cornet legend Buddy Bolden (1877-1931).

Mumbo Jumbo
            Beginning with Vachel Lindsay’s skewed view of African-American culture as black magic straight from the heart of darkness, the mythic Congo, Ishmael Reed creates a dazzling collage of incongruous materials ingeniously melded into a rambling, satirical story, using a variety of literary materials and visual inserts—photos, posters, drawings—from the 1920s and from the 1960s (which Reed sees as an analogue and outcome to the decade of the Jazz Age).  His work is highly original, powerfully pan-ethnic and pan-cultural, and in the novel, Reed makes a case for jazz as a great leveler and vitalizer of American civilization.  Mumbo Jumbo  is imaginative, boldly experimental and highly successful in integrating Reed’s eclectic, vernacular prose with all manner of quoted, paraphrased and borrowed materials (the partial  bibliography lists 104 wildly assorted works).  It relates interlocking stories that develop Reed’s eccentric version of American cultural history, in which the 1920s figure as the flowering or culmination of African-American art and magic.
            The story starts with the background of Jes Grew, a “plague” beginning in New Orleans and sweeping the U.S. in the 1920s:
Actually Jes Grew was an anti-plague.  Some plagues caused the body to `waste away; Jes Grew enlivened the host.  Other plagues were accompanied by bad air (malaria).  Jes Grew victims said that the air was as clear as they had ever seen it and that there was an aroma of roses and perfumes which had never before enticed their nostrils.  Some plagues arise from decomposing animals, but Jes Grew is electric as life and is characterized by ebullience and ecstacy.  Terrible plagues were due to the wrath of God; but Jes Grew is the delight of the gods. (10)
Reed draws the name of this “anti-plague” from James Weldon Johnson, who in turn in The Book of American Negro Poetry  borrowed the idea of Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin  (who famously “jes grew” rather than being born) to explain the invention of black music and poetry:
"The earliest Ragtime songs, like Topsy, ‘jes grew’ . . . . we appropriated about the last one of the ‘jes grew’ songs.  It was a song which had been sung for years all through the South.  The words were unprintable, but the tune was irresistible, and belonged to nobody.” (13)
So “Jes Grew” is the highly infectious spirit of black music and art, the inventive, impromptu nature of jazz and the blues, which is irrepressible.
            Reed’s playful story does not try to recapitulate “jazz history” or musical biography but to imitate through its own freewheeling improvisation and swing the nature of African-American music.  It is less about jazz than jazzy by nature, built of solos, breaks, riffs, interlocking voices, polyphony and polyrhythms, like a powerful piece of music.  It is informed by playful conspiracy theories of American history that parody the often apocalyptic condemnations of jazz and blues as movements to undermine pure, white, bourgeois culture.  This conspiracy, as Reed frames it, is of the square white powers-that-be through western history, who began as Atonists (montheistic worshippers of Aton in ancient Egypt) against the polytheistic religions of Africa.  In the middle ages, the Atonists create the Wallflower Order (i.e., crusader militants in the mold of the Knights Templars or other quasi-legendary secret armies) to suppress their enemies.  The Wallflower Order is comprised of sourpusses and prigs who can’t dance and who want to suppress dancing and its delights among others (Jes Grew  is a dancing mania, like the medieval tarantella craze, but inspiring African-American dances like the Buzzard Lope, Turkey Trot, Black Bottom, etc.).
            Opposing this secret warfare of the Atonists is PaPa LaBas, a VooDoo priest/god who “carries Jes Grew  in him like most other folks carry genes” (26).  Reed describes the emergence of Jes Grew and the accelerated warfare of squares vs. jazz culture in language terms, which makes his story extremely complex and perceptive:  “So Jes Grew is seeking its words.  Its text.  For what good is a liturgy without a text?  In the 1890s the text was not available and Jes Grew was out there all alone.  Perhaps the 1920s will also be a false alarm and Jes Grew will evaporate as quickly as it appeared again broken-hearted and double-crossed (++).” (10)  The war-of-words idea is embodied by Hinckle Von Vampton, a cheesy journalist and publisher, a composite caricature owing something to H.L. Mencken (a 1920s icon and guru), William Randolph Hearst and even Carl Van Vechten.  The goal of the Atonists is to neutralize Jes Grew and imprison its artifacts in an Art Detention Center.  Von Vampton serves as propagandist and coordinator of attacks on African-American art and ideas.
            The curator of the Art Detention Center is Biff Musclewhite, who expresses the hysterical fear of black art (specifically the Harlem Renaissance) by the white establishment:
Son, these n*ggers are writing.  Profaning our sacred words.  Taking them from us and beating them on the anvil of Boogie Woogie, putting their black hands on them so they shine like burnished amulets.  Taking our words, son, these filthy n*ggers and using them like they were their god-given p*ssy.  Why . . . . why 1 of them dared to intepret, critically mind you, the great Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick!!  (130)
The story is punctuated by mock-bulletins in telegraphese charting the course of Jes Grew and its effects on the culture.  The anti-plague is spreading around the world (as jazz immediately made an international impact after 1917):
The language of jazz, the “text” of Jes Grew is subtle and subtly transforming, like a virus mutating as it spreads and reproducing itself in new and surprising forms.
            As the novel develops, it acquires a powerful momentum, and Reed’s often surreal ideas become more and more convincing.  He shapes Mumbo Jumbo to link the new musics of the 1920s and the “youth movement” of the 1960s and the new forms of blues, rock and roll, soul and hip-hop musics emerging with sweeping cultural change.  The novel thus becomes a way to review African-American cultural history through a revisionist viewpoint and a way to explain the present disturbances and revolutions, some based in historical understanding, some mere ephemeral aberrations.  The story ends with a melancholy epilogue, a retrospection, as PaPa LaBas is an honorary speaker at a Black Studies course:
  Each year the students would invite PaPa LaBas to the campus to discuss the Harlem Renaissance.  After all, he had attended this “Negro Awakening.”  The Cabarets, the Speaks, and he knew many painters, show people, film makers. . . . But the children seemed more interested in the fact that he was 100 years old than anything else. (248)
            LaBas tries to make the tangled history of Jes Grew clear as he speaks:
The Blues is a Jes Grew, as James Weldon Johnson surmised.  Jazz was a Jes Grew which followed the Jes Grew of Ragtime.  Slang is Jes Grew too.
            The Black professor interrupts PaPa LaBas.
This is all we have time for, PaPa LaBas.  Thank you very much for being with us tonight.  PaPa LaBas is an eccentric old character from the 20s who thrills us with his tales about those golden times and his role in bringing about the holiday [“Mumbo Jumbo Holiday”] we are celebrating today. 
  The students smile at this old man accepting his inevitable envelope con
taining the honorarium.  He loves to come to the university for his annual lecture on Jes Grew.  All the students are wearing Jes Grew buttons of their own design.  (244-45)
In this baggy collage or bricolage of a novel, Reed accomplishes a number of subtle and complex connections between language and music, culture and history, the white western view of African-American art and the inside view by a keen poet and storyteller.  The work develops the idea of  “jazz history” indirectly and organically, in a much more effective manner than E.L. Doctorow’s popular Ragtime  (1975), which merely sets up a flimsy magic realist perspective on the turn of the century and uses African-American music more as “atmosphere” or a genteel soundtrack than as a convincing theme or matrix for the narrative.
            Reed’s casual fireworks in Mumbo Jumbo often produce insights both provocative and very funny, as when PaPa LaBas meditates on his career:
Jes Grew was going around in circles until the 1920s when it impregnated America’s “hysteria.”  I was there, a private eye practicing in my Neo-HooDoo therapy center named by my critics Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral because I awarded the Asson to myself.  Licensed myself.  I was a jacklegged detective of the metaphysical who was on the case; and in 1920 there was a crucial case.  In 1920 Jes Grew swept through this country and whether they liked it or not Americans were confronted with the choices of whether to Eagle Rock or Buzzard Swoop, whether to join the contagion or quarantine it, whether to go with Jes Grew or remain loyal to the Atonist Path protected by the Wallflower Order, its administrative backbone composed of grumblers and sourpusses to whom no 1 ever asked:
“May I Have This 1?”  (242)
A wide-ranging student and commentator on our popular culture, Ishmael Reed in his first novel Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969) drew brilliantly on genre fiction (cowboy, detective, science fiction), on radio serials and cowboy films, on the whole background of America’s western-hero mythos.  And in The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974) and Mumbo Jumbo, he extends these seriocomic American Studies meditations to encompass the “impregnation” of our “text” by black music and its culture.  The energetic postmodern style and mentality create a convincing analysis of the new music of the 1920s and its ultimate effect on us.

Coming through Slaughter
            Michael Ondaatje’s book is a vigorous postmodernist excursion into tangled folk history, much of it documentary in nature—interviews, reminiscences and legends transcribed whole and bridged by narrative of Charles “Buddy” Bolden’s life at the turn of the century, as Ondaatje imaginatively realizes it.  Bolden’s story is also a Chattertonesque tale of despair, madness, dissolution and death, but Ondaatje does not treat it as an “industrial accident,” as in Baker, but as a tragedy of malevolent destiny.
            Ondaatje has always been much interested in photographs as social and psychic clues, and he begins his story from the one existing photo of Bolden’s band, a battered print often reproduced and argued over:  the musicians are posed with their instruments, which about half of them hold left-handed, so it is difficult to tell if the print is aligned correctly or “flopped” (reversed).  The seven musicians in the band have all been identified, but it is not clear if this was the standard personnel for Bolden’s group or just a chance photo of one version.  In Coming through Slaughter, Ondaatje comments on this artifact:
There is only one photograph that exists today of Bolden and the band.  This is what you see.

Jimmy Johnson
on base
Bolden Willy Cornish on
valve trombone
Willy Warner
on clarinet

Brock Mumford
on guitar
Frank Lewis
on clarinet

As a photograph it is not good or precise, partly because the print was found after the fire.  The picture, waterlogged by climbing hoses, stayed in the possession of Willy Cornish for several years.  (66)
The photographic theme is integral to the story, as Ondaatje introduces another historical character, the eccentric French Quarter photographer E.J. Bellocq, a strange, Toulouse Latrec-like artist famous for the careful, dark studies he made of prostitutes and the demimonde.
            Bellocq becomes the supposed photographer of the Bolden band, uniting the worlds of jazz and sordid prostitution, drugs and disease.  His work is described in detail:
The photographs of Bellocq.  HYDROCEPHALIC.  89 glass plates survive.  Look at the pictures.  Imagine the mis-shapen man who moved around the room, his grace as he swivelled around his tripod, the casual shot of the dresser that holds the photograph of the whore’s baby that she gave away, the plaster Christ on the wall.  Compare Christ’s hands holding the metal spikes to the badly sewn appendix scar of the thirty year old naked woman he photographed when she returned to the room—unaware that he had already photographed her baby and her dresser and her crucifix and her rug.  (54)
Bolden and Bellocq become romantic counterparts, alter egos, in the story, with the implication that Bolden’s musical art is parallel to Bellocq’s study of light, shadow and the human body and psyche in black and white on glass plates.  The strangeness of the Bellocq photographs, the obsessiveness of the images, becomes part of the texture of Buddy Bolden’s descent into madness.
            The story is brilliantly visual throughout.  This is odd but effective given two factors:  1) it is a story about music, a sonic rather than visual experience, but 2) nothing really can be guessed or reconstructed of the actual sound of the Bolden band, beyond some late recollections or reconstructions, like Jelly Roll Morton’s version of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” and Sidney Bechet’s “Buddy Bolden Stomp,” both recorded some thirty years after Bolden’s collapse into insanity and half a decade after his death, or some fragmental imitations by Bunk Johnson in the 1940s.  Ondaatje makes his story dwell on the world of Bolden—its shape, color, texture—rather than trying to conjure his musical style or sensibility.  Thus, E.J. Bellocq becomes Bolden’s “eyes,” his imagination and consciousness in parts of the tale.
            Ondaatje imagines Bellocq and Bolden watching the famous band photo develop in the darkroom, as a process of revelation analogous to the creation of jazz, music developing spontaneously out of nowhere, out of light and inspiration:
. . . he bent over the sink with Bellocq, watching the paper weave in the acid tray. . . . In the thick red light the little man tapped the paper with his delicate fingers so it would be uniformly printed, and while waiting cleaned the soakboard in a fussy clinical way. The two of them watching the pink rectangle as it slowly began to grow black shapes, coming fast now.  Then the sudden vertical lines which rose out of the pregnant white paper which were the outlines of six men and their formally held instruments.  The dark clothes coming first, leaving the space that was the shirt.  Then the faces.  Frank Lewis looking slightly to the left.  All serious except for the smile on Bolden.  (52)
Bolden becomes here an image, an icon, as he did in jazz legend, barely known, without exact shape or form or identity but nonetheless a name and image of heroic and mythic proportions, a culture hero like King Arthur or Robin Hood, even known familiarly as King Bolden, one more avatar of the Hero with the Thousand Faces.
            This is the substance of Ondaatje’s story, the hollow inside of such a hero.  At one point Bolden thinks of himself in these terms:  “All my life I seemed to be a parcel on a bus.  I am the famous f*cker.  I am the famous barber.  I am the famous cornet player.  Read the labels.  The labels are coming home.”  (106)  Ondaatje’s first excursion into this kind of historical-poetic fiction was The Collected Works of Billy the Kid  (1970), another tale of a strange alienated hero, a man cursed to be famous for being famous.  Bolden’s story is even more appropriate, given the paradoxical nature of jazz, a music that is both serially manufactured and reproduced (like photographic prints pulled off a glass negative plate) and impossible to duplicate,  given its private, unique and improvised origins.
            The research Ondaatje used was the best available in the 1960s, but since then (1978) Donald M. Marquis completed and published his exhaustive “search” for Buddy Bolden, turning up new and corrective visions of the man and the artifacts of his hagiography.  In his first chapter, Marquis identifies the components of the Bolden legend that are fabrications or errors:  1) that he was a barber on Franklin Street; 2) that he ran a newspaper or scandal sheet called The Cricket; 3) that he played in “Tin Type Hall”; 4) that he played with such astounding volume that he could be heard all over New Orleans from outdoor venues like Lincoln Park.  Marquis traces these repeated tales to Ramsey and Smith’s Jazzmen (1939), some anecdotes by Bunk Johnson in the early 1940s, Rudi Blesh’s Shining Trumpets  (1949) and Alan Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll  (1950).  These sources became well known and read by elderly jazz musicians and others in New Orleans, so the errors were replayed and reasserted over and again in interviews, taking on the verity of history (Marquis 3-9).
            Ondaatje repeats this version of pre-1978 history in Coming through Slaughter, so the errors become part of the chimerical fabric of Bolden’s madness and delusion.  Toward the end of the narrative there is a bit of self-reflexive authorial meditation on the tale and its sources and the beginning in the lone photograph:
   The thin sheaf of information.  Why did my senses stop at you? There was the sentence, ‘Buddy Bolden, who became a legend when he went berserk in a parade. . .’  What was there in that, before I knew your nation your colour your age, that made me push my arm forward and spill it through the front of your mirror and clutch myself?  Did not want to pose in your accent but think in your brain and body, and you like a weatherbird arcing round in the middle of your life to exact opposites and burning your brains out so that from June 5, 1907 till 1931 you were dropped into amber in the East Louisiana State Hospital.  Some saying you went mad trying to play the devil’s music and hymns at the same time, and Armstrong telling historians that you went mad by playing too hard and too often drunk too wild too crazy.  The excesses cloud up the page.  There was the climax of the parade and then you removed yourself from the 20th century game of fame, therest of your life a desert of facts.  (134)
In best postmodern fashion, Coming through Slaughter refuses to be recognizable as a novel, as prose poetry, as a meditation on self, fiction and history or as any other clear-cut genre or mode.  It is a romantic view of the tormented and abandoned artist, but it is also a deliberation on the social and moral dimensions of being young, black and famous in America at the turn of the century.  It is, supremely, an act of wide-ranging imaginative empathy and psychological reconstruction which Ondaatje has repeated and developed persuasively in later novels like The Skin of a Lion (1987) and The English Patient  (1992).

Short fiction
            In addition to these novels limning early jazz from a literary perspective, there is a body of short fictions, ranging from commercial efforts and tales only incidentally raiding the jazz life for its thrill quotient to serious portraits of musicians in their milieus.  Without attempting to survey and summarize everything in print, I have selected stories that illustrate the new musics of the 1920s as writers discovered the literary potential of jazz and blues.
            An early distinguished view of jazz came from Eudora Welty in a story called “Powerhouse” (1941), a close study in fictional terms of Fats Waller at the height of his career.  In her 1972 Paris Review interview, Welty talked about the story as an anomaly in her writing.  She was asked what inspired the story and replied:
I wrote it in one night after I’d been to a concert and dance in Jackson where Fats Waller played.  I tried to write my idea of the life of the traveling artist and performer—not Fats Waller himself, but any artist—in the alien world and tried to put in it the words and plot suggested by the music I’d been listening to.  It was a daring attempt for a writer like me—as daring as it was to write about the murderer of Medgar Evers on that night—and I’m not qualified to write about music or performers.  (Plimpton 285)
So “Powerhouse” is an attempt to capture the larger-than-life personality of Waller and to show how life on the road—specifically on the road in the South in the deeply segregated 1930s and ’40s—felt, looked and sounded to a supreme musical sensibility.  The title Welty chose implies the basic theme of her tale—the explosive exuberance and emotional energy of the music.
            The first third of the story is almost purely evocative, a scene-setting prologue from a second-person narrator’s point of view, a sketch of the Waller-figure like many written by jazz reporters and critics (longtime New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett is the best example of such atmospheric impressionism):  “This is a white dance.  Powerhouse is not a show-off like the Harlem boys, not drunk, not crazy—he’s in a trance; he’s a person of joy, a fanatic. . . . Of course you know how he sounds—you’ve heard him on records—but still you need to see him.” (Welty 131)
            Welty observed the bandstand protocol carefully and got it right in her description:
Powerhouse has as much as possible done by signals.  Everybody laughing as if to hide a weakness, will sooner or later hand him up a request.  Powerhouse reads each one, studying with a secret face: that  is the face which looks like a mask—anybody’s; there is a moment when he makes a decision.  Then a light slides under his eyelids, and he says “92!” or some combination of figures—never a name. (132)
            The tenor of the story then changes, and we find that Powerhouse has just gotten a telegram saying that his wife is dead.  The rest of the story is framed by the irony of Powerhouse and his little band talking and continuing to play the dance as if nothing is wrong, so the theme becomes the old “laughing on the outside, crying on the inside” idea of Pagliacci,  the crude entertainer’s mask of comedy slipped over the true tragic face.  After the second-person observation, the dramatized scenes with Powerhouse and his bandsmen are moving.
            The idea of the fatal telegram or letter edged in black is an old blues motif, and Welty’s short story becomes a version of this mythic idea—the telegram, signed “Uranus Knockwood” (a compound of mythology and superstition) seems to be from Powerhouse’s wife’s lover, the “backdoor man” of folklore, or as Powerhouse characterizes him:  “‘That no-good pussyfooted crooning creeper, that creeper that follow around after me, coming up like weeds behind me, following around after me everything I do and messing around on the trail I leave.  Bets my numbers, sings my songs. Gets close to my agent like a Betsy-bug; when I going out he just coming in.  I got my eye on him.” (138)  So the story becomes one of a double bereavement—sexual betrayal and jealousy and the betrayal of death (Powerhouse fears his wife has committed suicide to spite him). 
            At the end, Powerhouse is again described in action on the bandstand, singing “Somebody Loves Me”:
   “Maybe . . .” He uses all his right hand on a trill.
   “Maybe. . .” He pulls back his spread fingers and looks out upon the place where he is.  A vast, impersonal and yet furious grimace trans
figures his wet face.
   “. . . Maybe it’s you!” (141)
This reinforces Welty’s contrast of the “public” performer who must woo and please his audience, no matter what the circumstances, and the private person under the harlequin mask who must suffer unobserved, at the mercy of the audience’s incessant requests.
            Eudora Welty is a shrewd, subtle, often taciturn observer of the South and its basic culture, including the tension generated by the friction of black and white viewpoints.  Her skill at finding archetypes and myths which embody this subtle interplay of cultures is her great original gift.  In "Powerhouse,” she took the ephemeral 1940s pop-jazz scene that Fats Waller represented better than any other single performer and made it emblematic of the innate power of art and entertainment:
  Powerhouse is so monstrous he sends everybody into oblivion. When any group, any performers, come to town, don’t people always come out and hover near, leaning inward about them, to learn what it is?  Listen.  (132)
The story has a cumulative power much like Waller’s own performances, in which he seized trivial, second-rate pop music and transformed it into genuine comedy or quite beautiful art.  His throwaway performances are sometimes written off as mere parody or travesty, but the effect of many of his recordings is to recast and dignify material that was inherently weak and shoddy—an effect closely akin to Welty’s own artful transmutation of local gossip, family tales and folklore into universalized myth in works like The Robber Bridegroom (1942) and The Golden Apples  (1949).
            Another short story that evokes a carefully researched and imagined milieu is J.F. Powers’ “He Don’t Plant Cotton” (1947), an ironic study of black entertainers confronted by racist stupidity.  It focuses on a bar in Chicago and three black musicians—a black drummer named Baby (cf. Warren “Baby” Dodds), a hunchbacked bartender-pianist named Dodo (cf. Chick Webb, the hunchbacked swing drummer-bandleader, and Dodo Marmaroso, the modern pianist) and a glamorous pianist-singer named Libby, who wears a carnation a la  Billie Holiday and seems as tough and self-contained as Lil Hardin. 
            Powers’ story, like Welty’s, seizes on the way jazz musicians are at the mercy of spectators and their requests.  The first half of the story establishes the milieu and the character of Baby, the viewpoint character, with great dignity.  It is winter and snowy, and Baby thinks about a long career in the music business:
  New York may be all right, he hummed to himself, but Beale Street’s paved with gold.  That’s a lie, he thought; I been down on Beale.  And Chicago, same way.  All my life playing jobs in Chicago, and I still got to ride the Big Red [streetcar].  And that’s no lie.  Jobs were getting harder and harder to find.  What they wanted was Mickey Mouse sound effects, singing strings, electric guitars, neon violins, even organs and accordions and harmonica teams.  Hard to find a spot to play in, and when you did it was always a white place with drunken advertising men wanting to hear “an old song”—“My Wild Irish Rose” or “I Love You Truly.”  So you played it, of course, and plenty of schmaltz.  (Powers 102)
This sets up the theme that will develop to the climax of the story.
            It builds up from the introduction of four or five loudmouthed patrons —“gentlemen from Mississippi”—who are attracted to Libby’s sensual beauty and, when they find out she is from the South, demand that she play and sing “Old Man River.”  Libby and Baby begin subtly to parody and subvert the music:  “There was the tiniest touch of satire in Libby’s voice, a slightly over-ripe fervor.” (107) and “Baby grimaced in torment and did his best to look like ol’ Uncle Tom out snatchin’ cotton.” (108)
            Other patrons—a college boy and his blonde girlfriend—join in to bother the duo, while the Mississippians make blunt sexual passes at Libby.   The girl demands “St. Louis Blues”:
   “How you want it?” Libby said.  She put out her cigarette.  “Blues, rhumba. . . what kind a way?”
   “Oh, play it low down.  The way you people play it.”  So Libby would understand, she executed a ponderous wink, narrowed her eyes, and made them glitter wantonly behind the lashes.  “You know,” she said.  (111)
The drunken Mississippians become more obnoxious and insistent, demanding endless repetitions of “Old Man River” from the two familiar “darkies” at their command in this cold, northern city.  They interfere with the musicians until Libby says:
  “Not now.  Later.”
  “No, you don’t.  You gotta play it right now.  For a bunch of boys from down South.  They all got a hankerin’ to hear that ‘Ol’ Man River’ some more.” (113-14)
Libby and Baby unite to refuse the request, and Baby discovers this moment of impromptu “passive resistance” is immensely liberating:  “A feeling was growing within him that he had wanted to do this for a long time—for years and years, in a hundred different places he had played.”  (114)
            Baby has a sudden sense of his own kingly, even godlike, power:
   Secretly majestic, Baby sat at his drums, the goal of countless uplifted eyes—beseeching him.  For it seemed that hordes of white people were far below him, making their little commotions and noises, asking favors of him, like Lord, please bring the rain, or Lord, please take it away.  Lord Baby.  (114)
But the illusion fades, and Libby and Baby are fired by the bar owner for their self-defensive transgression.  They go out into the wind and snow, lugging Baby’s cumbersome drum kit, to catch the streetcar, and the mood of depression and anger suddenly changes, as Libby begins to laugh helplessly at the sheer absurdity of their plight.  Baby is slightly vexed and bemused by her mood, but then he thinks, “Like her piano on ‘Little Rock’—that fine, young-woman laughter.” (117)  The shared and incommunicable experience of the music redeems the bitter moment, makes it not just passive suffering and endurance, as in “Old Man River,” but feelings much more complex and important when known from the inside.
            “He Don’t Plant Cotton” catches the immediate post- World War II mood both of the country and the music business—the growing awareness of segregation as a massive and unresolved social crime and the changes in the music business that turned from swing and jazz groups to jukeboxes, rhythm and blues bands, pop singers.  Like Powers’ meticulous and distinguished novels of Catholic community life (Morte D’Urban  [1962] and Wheat that Springeth Green  [1988]), Powers’ short stories are careful, acutely observed studies of the spiritual and ethical dilemmas and faultlines in U.S. culture.  “He Don’t Plant Cotton” works effectively to evoke the music and to reveal racism and oppression in their everyday guises.
            A slightly longer work that is sui generis  is a novella by Czech expatriate writer Josef Skvorecky, “The Bass Saxophone” (1967).  It is worth considering, for it tries to capture the spirit of jazz as understood by eastern Europe and how jazz operated as an agency of freedom in 1940, under the iron occupation of Europe by the victorious Nazi war machine.  Implicitly, it deals with issues of freedom and individuality under any totalitarian regime (it was written just before the “Prague Springtime” of 1968, after which the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia and ruthlessly suppressed expressions of liberty and choice.  The story is a parable and a prediction which came true (Skvorecky left the country after the Soviet coup and settled in Canada).
            In a preface to the volume containing “The Bass Saxophone,” Skvorecky says that he played tenor sax with a band in Czechoslovakia called Red Music, not as a political label but to distinguish it from the Prague group Blue Music.  He makes the point that he thinks jazz is “not simply protest.  Its essence is something far more elemental:  an elan vital , a forceful vitality, an explosive creative energy as breathtaking as that of any true art, that may be felt even in the saddest of blues.  Its effect is cathartic.” (4)  He discusses Dr. Goebbels’ Nazi propaganda machine and the attempt to suppress jazz, listing the absurd regulations issued to extinguish “decadent” music of the sub-human races.  Then he details the thousand ways he and his colleagues bypassed and subverted both the letter and the spirit of fascism.  The novella is, in a subtle and sidelong way, about the same process of resistance to tyranny through the transforming freedom of jazz and its soul—the act of invention.
            “The Bass Saxophone” is almost a fairytale or a skewed parable, like one of Franz Kafka’s stories, in which a strange, old German-speaking man appears to the young sax-playing narrator with a bass saxophone, an instrument of mythic provenance.  The narrator, struggling to play jazz in the small town of Kostelec, is dazzled and tempted by the instrument, even though the old man repels him.  He tries to leave, but the old man asks him—in Czech—to help him with the huge thing:  “The old man’s crippled eyes stared at me as if they were gazing out of some terrible fairy tale; but at his feet, in a black coffin with faded velvet cushioning, rested a bass saxophone. . . . ‘Ja, Bassaxophon,’ said the old man.  ‘Have you ever heard it played?  It has the voice like a bell.  Sehr traurig .  Very sad.’” (126-27) 
            The old man is like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner or the mythic Old Man of the Sea—he captures the young man by the sheer mystery of the elephantine instrument, and finally lures him into playing it with a weird band of misfits led by Lothar Kinze:
. . . like a panoramic camera my eyes took in the band:  the gray woman with the mask of a sorrowful clown and a nose like a carnival mask, the cut-down Caesar, the girl with the Swedish hair, the blind hunchback, and the huge man with the artificial leg . . . (147)
It is a collection of all the deformities and abnormalities of the human physique that Hitler’s Reich despised and condemned, those humans who—with the Jews and Gypsies and Catholics and Communists and homosexuals and political deviants—were shipped by the trainload to the extermination camps.  These escapees from the death machine exist by playing their strange music in the backwaters of Europe, and the young man is seduced into playing the bass saxophone with them.
            He is given the music for a tune the band uses to feature the bass saxophone:
It was the bass saxophone part of a composition originally called “The Bear,” ein Charakterstuck[2] fur Bassaxophon und Orchester, but someone's hand had crossed out the title in a faded brown ersatz wartime ink, and had written instead Der Elefant .  My eyes followed the notes; it was a waltz in A minor, a very simple affair, based on the effect of deep notes, certainly not what I yearned to play on this saxophone—it was no Rollini—although it was exactly what I was capable of playing from sheet music.  (158)
Skvorecky exactly captures the details and inside feelings of a young, jazz-happy would-be musician in the time and place.  The story is larded with anecdotes about the European craze for jazz, the feverish record-collecting and discographical research under hideous conditions,  the vast remove in time and space from the U.S. origins of the music.
            His young narrator is finally induced into appearing onstage with Kinze’s band of freaks, despite his reluctance to appear before his friends with Germans—the enemy.  He is to replace the regular sax player, who is ill or comatose in the old shabby hotel where the band is quartered.  He goes onstage in a false mustache and grotesque uniform and plays a number, and then the regular sax player appears and drags him offstage.  He sees how the instrument might be played, by a determined, dying man:
I opened my eyes:  the man was struggling with the bass saxophone;
he was not playing, he was overpowering it; it sounded like the wild
fight of two cruel, dangerous, and powerful animals roaring at each
other; his ditch-digger’s hands (by their size, not their calluses) were
squeezing the blinded body that was like the neck of a brontosaurus,
and huge sobs poured out of the corpus, roars thousands of millions
of years old.  (203)
The young narrator is amazed and transformed by the emotional power of the playing, its life-or-death desperation.  He then finds a trail of blood that the player has left from his hotel room to the stage.  He is literally dying to play the music.
            Skvorecky’s story is deftly and densely written, with vivid, virtuoso passages about the sound of the music and feeling of wartime youth and yearning wound into the strangeness of the band of misfits and their sad attempts to survive.  “The Bass Saxophone” gives a powerful perspective on the meaning the world has attached to the music and its ability to cross barriers of time, space, language, nationality.

* * * *

            Fiction treating jazz and blues of the 1920s which is not simply sensationalistic or melodramatic in purpose has drawn on the research and understanding of the music which blossomed in the 1930s and was refined in the 1950s and ’60s, before the comprehensive rock and soul revolution displaced earlier pop music traditions.  As the twentieth century ends, the 75 or so years that span the beginnings of the blues, ragtime, jazz and swing seem very remote and quaint, but they were crucial times in the building of popular culture.  The thorough industrialization of pop music after the 1960s has obliterated the continuities of much earlier music, including the cultural mythology attached to it and the images or icons that were part of the vocabulary of vernacular culture:  the itinerant bluesman on the road, the gaudy blues diva with her plumes and spangles, the hooch-ridden jazzman of the Roaring Twenties forever pinned against a backdrop of speeding black sedans, Thompson submachine guns, barrels of needled beer or teacups of bathtub gin.
            Jazz and blues have become both more subtly integrated into our consciousness and more remote from actual experience.  Despite the availability of music on records, tapes or discs, it has remained a fascination for the young, for minorities, for would-be rebels or avant-gardists, distant from the platinum-record standards of pop.  Movements to create jazz education courses, jazz bands and repertory orchestras have done little to make the music more than a specialty taste.  Nevertheless, jazz and blues have remained sources of fascination in popular culture, something everyone has heard about, even if it is not familiar.
            The same root motives may account for this fascination:  the abiding American interest in novelty, sexuality and freedom as qualities of the new African-American musics.  Certainly, jazz and blues provided novelty—new dances, spectacles, behaviors—which became topics of fiction.  But the novel process of improvisation and the idea of spontaneous composition, however misunderstood, were also stimuli. Fiction itself could be improvised, responsive to an audience, rooted in emotions of the second.  It could become jazzy or jazzlike, it could be as plaintive as the blues.  To write about the musicians and their milieu almost forced this stance on writers (who often were music fans in the first place and drawn to the subject through the sounds they assimilated).  When F. Scott Fitzgerald talked about a “Jazz Age,” it was from the viewpoint of an author who could depict and speak for that age.  His energetic, jaunty and flippant tales—even the throwaway popular magazine pieces—were calculated to be new, brash, experimental, impromptu.
            The language of ragtime, blues and jazz was new—an infusion of jargon and argots from social strata shut off from most middle-class readers.  Along with the underworld language of the 1920s retailed by writers like Damon Runyon and sports jargon used by Ring Lardner and others, language from music infiltrated literature, often by way of the racy dialogue of comic strips and the playful telegraphese of silent movie title cards.  When young Ernest Hemingway transferred his brusque and brutalist newspaper and cable styles to his short fiction, he was joining a tidal movement of the 1920s.  Jazz and blues played a part in this widening of the American language.
            The new language of sexual frankness that marked the twentieth century was also impelled by popular music.  The old lace-doily language of love and sentiment from Victorian parlor songs was swept away by lyrics that dealt with necking and petting, lovers’ lane, that said “Bessie Couldn’t Help It” and mentioned love in a Buick.  The raucous dirty blues and double entendre songs reveled in sexual imagery and playful innuendo, not because euphemism was required but because they retailed raw titillation. 
            A whole school of “analogy blues” sprang up, creating farfetched and often surreal imagery.  Robert Johnson, one of the most sober and angst-ridden of bluesmen, could write “Phonograph Blues,” comparing sex to operating a windup Victrola—an interesting self-reflexive idea, since he wrote the song to record and be played itself on phonographs, as if he could invest the mechanism with a sexual life of its own.  Other blues songs dealt playfully with analogical absurdities:  “My Handy Man” (a big hit for Ethel Waters and Victoria Spivey), in which the male lover becomes a “yard man” and the woman’s body the yard, or “I’ll Keep Sittin’ on It (If I Can’t Sell It)” by Andy Razaf, purportedly about a chair for sale but phrased insinuatingly, or perhaps the frisky reductio ad absurdum  by Fats Waller, his “Porter’s Love Song to a Chambermaid,” in which all the humble cleaning tools of their occupations are invoked as sentimentally romantic imagery (“If you’ll be my shoebrush,/I’ll be your shoe,” etc.).  This metonymy run amok is only one way that sexual language, imagery, epigrams invaded our consciousness through popular culture and passed readily into literature. 
            The idea of freedom brought by the new music was also salutary in the 1920s, as movements for women’s suffrage, the New Negro movement and Harlem Renaissance, new waves of political radicalism stimulated by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and other sociopolitical trends coalesced.  Ordinary people could buy a Ford and travel, freeing themselves  from the city, the home, the farm, and American literature developed the “Revolt from the Village” theme, led by Sinclair Lewis’s meticulous social analyses of Main Street towns and big city Babbittry.  Women were freed from ties to the home and went to work—or smoked, drank in public, bobbed their hair and lifted their hemlines, kicked up their heels.  The soundtrack to this national movie was jazz and blues, with their urgent, unmistakable messages about moving, dancing, cutting loose and letting yourself go and finding new ways to express yourself.
            Jazz and blues—in many forms and manifestations—were ubiquitous in the 1920s, as rock, rap and other industrial pop music are ubiquitous in the 1990s.  They became part of the milieu, the cultural backdrop against which the dramas of life were played out.  They were taken for granted as “atmosphere,” as general and necessary as air and light.  Their effects are specifically visible in some examples I have examined, but their main effect was in being so widely and wholly accepted as integral to the fabric of America. ###


Baker, Dorothy.  Young Man with a HornBoston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1938.

Ondaatje, Michael. Coming through SlaughterToronto:  Anansi, 1976.

Plimpton, George, ed.  Writers at Work:  The Paris Review Interviews, Fourth SeriesNew York:  Viking, 1976.

Powers, J.F.  Prince of Darkness and Other StoriesNew York:  Doubleday, 1947.

Reed, Ishmael.  Mumbo JumboNew YorkAvon, 1978.

Skvorecky, Josef.  The Bass Saxophone. New York: Washington Square, 1977.

Welty, Eudora.  Collected Stories of Eudora WeltyNew York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.

[1] Notwithstanding the scholarly nature of the paper, an editorial asterisk has been inserted by the jpt editor in certain vulgarities quoted or cited.  The editor confesses lingering uncertainty about what the asterisk accomplishes.

[2] character-piece    —jpt ed.

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