An engaging, melancholy, and uneasy journey through the recesses of the Big Easy.

SLEEPYTIME DOWN SOUTH

A musician’s impromptu trip to New Orleans leads to a glimpse of the future and a reckoning with his past in this novel.

Music is Peter “Maz” Mazewski’s life, and he is always on the lookout for something new. A talented clarinet player, in the early 1960s, he is named “the Benny Goodman of his generation.” Not content to bask in the glow of the appellation, Maz begins playing alto sax, earning a Grammy nomination. But by 1982, Maz has lost his groove and decides to leave his Chicago home and go to New Orleans. On the train, he encounters a group of men. Most are young and black except for an older white man who holds sway over the group. Trouble finds Maz the moment he enters the city. He’s robbed and then mugged of his cash. Undeterred, he finds a place to stay and starts looking up old friends. At a club, he reconnects with pianist Berta Bredeaux and meets Davis Leggit, the older man from the train. A DJ, Davis introduces Maz to a club that offers a new musical groove. Intoxicated by the changing city, Maz embarks on an exploration of New Orleans in search of the groove and Davis. Cannon’s (French Quarter Beautification Project, 2016, etc.) latest book is a character study of a man seeking to rediscover himself and his passion for music that moves with the pace of a keen psychological thriller. Maz is a complex protagonist; driven by the siren’s call of music, he’s willing to change instruments and styles seemingly on a whim. Music is a significant part of the narrative, and Cannon infuses the story with references to blues songs like “A Hundred Years from Today” and “Back O’Town Blues” and notable jazz musicians like Jack Teagarden and Fletcher Henderson. When Maz finally reaches New Orleans, he finds a city in transition; the places are familiar but new people, ideas, and dangers are beginning to alter the landscape. This tension is captured in a stroll Maz takes down Decatur Street. Years earlier, the street was known for its bars and prostitutes. The Decatur Street Maz walks down in 1982 is something far more respectable. He appreciates the thriving economy but believes it is inauthentic with its “loud, too forcibly upbeat forgeries of the local music.” His reunion with Berta provides insight into Maz’s love of music, and the scenes of her playing at a club called the Kozy Kove pulse with lively energy. Davis is a vivid and unforgettable part of Maz’s trajectory. A DJ and purveyor of pursuits that may or may not be legal or moral, he is the fulcrum of Maz’s final odyssey through the streets of New Orleans. Cannon’s narrative is a well-crafted page-turner suffused with a sense of foreboding. Maz’s destination feels inevitable and the author deftly captures the pathos as he slips from his friends, acquaintances, and, finally, sense of self.

An engaging, melancholy, and uneasy journey through the recesses of the Big Easy.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60489-198-0

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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