TONIGHT AT NOON: A Love Story

Sue Graham Mingus, Author . Pantheon $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-375-42115-0

The widow of the legendary bassist, band leader and composer Charles Mingus tells the story of their improbable love affair and marriage. They were an unlikely couple, a debutante from a proper Midwestern family and an antiestablishment maverick from the Watts section of Los Angeles, "jazz's angry man." When they met in 1964, she was puzzled by his anger, outrage and tempestuous life, so different from her own, which had been founded on order and decorum. Yet she was not intimidated by his volatility and ferocious temper. Together they organized a small mail-order record club to market Mingus's work, his way of getting back at the major labels that had cheated him. The author was soon "trapped in the middle of his vast appetites and imagination, his sexuality, his angry intelligence, his nonsense and his pain." After years of an on-and-off affair, they were married in 1975; two years later, Mingus was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The second half of the book chronicles their descent into a living hell as Mingus battles this terrible affliction, a gradually worsening muscular paralysis for which there is no cure, and the author exhausts her mental and physical resources caring for him. Mingus died in Cuernavaca in 1979, at the age of 56. This is a powerful and moving book, unsparing in its portrayal of the devastation caused by Lou Gehrig's disease and charged with insight into the personality of a jazz great. The author, who takes her title from one of Mingus's compositions, still disperses her late husband's music through repertory bands, educational books and the production of Mingus CDs. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/04/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-306-81220-0
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