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.