Robert Johnson’s Freewheeling Jazz Funeral

Whit Frazier. Whit Frazier, $10.95 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-5399-6776-7
In this dextrous, brainy novel, Frazier (Harlem Mosaics) tells a diffuse story of artists and the arts. Rudy Paschal works for a publisher of braille books, but he’s also a New York playwright who seeks to create a scriptless, stageless production about blues singer/guitarist Robert Johnson, with a vision of amateur performers improvising in the streets: “something a little more freewheeling. Like a jazz funeral.” Rudy’s first muse is Janet Plummet, an academic; deeper inspiration is then provided by Maya Vicca, a poet whose book Rudy has discovered. The story shifts gears into vignettes about other characters, including a foray into the mind of Robert Johnson in the early 1900s. Maya’s cousin Lucien Swann is a political science graduate who has strayed into the business of selling weed, and Solomon Pinchback—Rudy’s ex-coworker who grows close to Maya—is a blind physicist who has “this clever smile that looks like a wink.” The stories digress and are drawn back together in a satisfying way when it becomes clear that Rudy has continued to work on his play, which ripens with facets of the additional vignettes that explore music and musicians, performance, writing, science, philosophy, theology, and even mystical elements. The author shows a fiery creative spark and a stimulating intellect in sustaining his far-ranging structure. This intense philosophical treatise is for enthusiastic thinkers who have a visceral feel for artful ideas. (BookLife)
Reviewed on : 07/18/2019
Release date: 11/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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