cover image Tenorman


David Huddle, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $12.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1027-2

Timing is everything; bad timing is nothing for jazz legend Edgar DeWeese Carnes and narrator Henry McKernan in Huddle's (Only the Little Bone) disappointingly unjazzy novella, one of the publisher's continuing series of short novels (see A Minus Tide, below). Henry is the director of the Carnes Project, an NEA-funded effort to preserve for posterity the work of the great tenor saxophonist. The grant has brought the ailing 60-year-old Carnes back from Sweden and ensconsed him in Chevy Chase, Md. In return, Carnes agrees to have his life video-and audiotaped as part of the project's effort to gain insight into the creative process of jazz. Meanwhile, Henry's marriage to Georgetown law professor Marianne is, however affable and close, sexually disappointing for both parties. When Carnes begins romancing high-school English teacher Thelma Watkins, all the fancy recording equipment in his house doesn't stop. Henry and Marianne listen and learn, gaining, by contrast, insight into their unsatisfying lives by listening to Carnes and Thelma talk about theirs. Thelma tells of having perhaps caught her mother in an adulterous encounter. Carnes describes a lifetime of trying to avoid what he calls Mr. Booze, Mr. Negative and Mr. Love. Huddle writes gracefully, but also with a curious detachment, never quite diving into the desperation that drives Henry's disproportionate interest in another man's life. In the end, Henry takes only a very simple and obvious lesson from Carnes: ``take what comes to you and go with it.'' (Oct.)