Blue Fruit

Adam Lively, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $16.95 (135p) ISBN 978-0-87113-311-3
Lively's first novel (originally published and very well received in England) celebrates jazz in unique and intriguing ways. In 1787, John Fields, an English ship's doctor, is sailing on a whaler in the South Seas. A classically trained violinist, he is scorned by crew members, so he jumps ship, unaware that a time warp has plunged him into the 20th century. Walking miles inland, he stumbles on train tracks, which lead him to a freight yard where he is discovered by two railroad employees the following morning. Eldridge, one of the workers, takes pity on the stranded Englishman and invites Fields to his dilapidated house in Harlem which he shares with his mother, his sister May and his brother Tommy, a jazz musician. Living with this contemporary black family, Fields plays violin in Tommy's jazz group, but the bleak urban landscape begins to wear him down. He's offered a job in ``information processing'' but eventually finds its rules as oppressive as the poverty he's trying to escape. Fields also misses the healing properties of music. Written in the form of a letter to Fields's father back in 18th century England, the novel uses brilliant descriptive prose to capture the mood, movement, and feeling of jazz, and conveys as well the tension and repressions affecting blacks and whites in contemporary society. Although the dramatic momentum flags near the end, and poverty itself is naively romanticized, this is an impressive, often dazzling, debut. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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