Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion/Volume Five: What are five books that mean a lot to you?

June 29th, 2006


Reminiscing in Tempo


Memories and Opinion



“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” Every month (or as often as possible), Jerry Jazz Musician poses one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.

Since it is not possible to know who will answer the question, the diversity of the participants will often depend on factors beyond the control of the publisher. The responses from the people who chose to participate in this edition are published below with only minor stylistic editing. No follow-up questions take place.


What are five books that mean a lot to you?

Originally published June, 2006


1. The Lost Steps, by Alejo Carpentier. Where music comes from.

2. Doctor Faustus, by Thomas Mann. Where music is going.

3. Point Counter Point, by Aldous Huxley. The classes mingling like so many cells on a slide.

4. Against the American Grain, by Dwight Macdonald. The critic’s critic.

5. The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell. The Boswell’s Boswell.





Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

Alan Dugan, Poems 2

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Alma Guillermoprieto, Dancing with Cuba

Christopher Small, Musicking





Paddle to the Sea was the first book I loved, so it has huge emotional meaning to me. I will never forget its artistry and geography. I first started to think about the world and the meaning of truth by reading the essays of George Orwell. A River Runs Through It, the book, not the movie, touched my soul like few stories have. No one has given me more pure pleasure than Roger Angell writing about baseball. And in studying the art of biography, I learned deeply from Robert Caro and Taylor Branch and how they handled LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr.






the poetics of music, igor stravinky

the lydian chromatic concept of tonal organization, george russell

the function of the orgasm, wilhelm reich

how does a poem mean?, john ciardi

the autobiography of leroi jones/amiri baraka

The Function of the Orgasm



Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

     Working, By Studs Terkel. Wanted to start with a nonfiction book as I’m a non fiction writer. My first impulse was to list one of great practitioners of the New Journalism that so influenced my generation –Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool Aid Acid Test or Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing — but on reflection had to list Stud’s masterpiece of oral documentary. Read it when I was an aspiring writer in my early 20s and it opened a whole world for me, showing me how valid and fascinating the purely oral format can be. Terkel basically uses the technique of the enthnographic sociologists and anthropologists to show how people’s most authentic experience emerges in their own words. Since Working there have been many wonderful oral social-cultural histories and biographies like Edie: An American Biography, that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Although I have never published an oral treatment like Terkel’s, I have conceived every one of my books as one, and compile all of my research exactly as if I were collecting material for one.

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. I came to Kerouac relatively late in life. Although Ginsberg coined the phrase “bop prosody,” it was Kerouac who elevated and enshrined it; there are passages of this book that are so sublimely poetic and spiritual that it breaks my heart. Conceptually, exactly like Bird or Trane blowing.

A Flag For Sunrise, by Robert Stone. My favorite novel by my favorite contemporary novelist — about Central America during the dark years of the 80s — in its way, a great political novel. Imagine Robert Conrad, taking acid, going to Vietnam — that’s Bob Stone to me, and I’m completely sympatico with his sensibility and world view.

     Look Homeward Angel, by Thomas Wolfe. No writer has ever been so successful at taking the common details of life — what Zola called “la vie quotidienne” — and rendering it as beautiful dithyrambic poetry. Single sentences that flow gloriously on for pages.

Sometimes A Great Notion, by Ken Kesey. His great logging novel — his second, after Cuckoo’s Nest. Read it right after college laying on a chaise lounge in my parents back yard on a beautiful September day in 1974. It was much more than the story — it was Kesey’s rendering of the woods, and how he rendered the interiority of his characters — and it was all the same thing. By the time I got up off that chair I knew that I was going to be a writer.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett


In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session


"Thinking About Charlie Parker" -- a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.


Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.


Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive