June 8, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Christopher Narozny's Jonah Man is a sparkling debut novel that explores the darkness that lay underneath the greasepaint of 1920s vaudeville.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"This is not the sugar-coated circus we saw in Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants (2006). Rather, it combines an almost Faulknerian cast of characters and a view of vaudeville that evokes Fredric Brown’s equally gritty tales of carnies on the make. Pay attention to Narozny. He is an emerging talent likely to become more widely known in short order."
Around the time I started writing Jonah Man, I also started listening, pretty seriously, to jazz (I was 34 or 35--I'm a latecomer to most things). It began in a very specific way; fellow University of Denver graduate students Marty Riker and Danielle Dutton asked me to watch their cat Dr. Spangelstein while they were out of town. Marty used to play trumpet professionally, and he has an extensive collection of jazz records. I'd always been kind of interested in jazz but never knew where to begin. Spangelstein and I spent our time together madly burning Marty's CDs. I remember being particularly taken with Duke Ellington's "Money Jungle" (Max Roach on drums and Charles Mingus on bass) and the 5-CD Columbia set of Miles Davis recordings. From there I was hooked. The thousands of hours I logged working on Jonah Man were spent in the company of one jazz artist or another whose work I was excited to be discovering, and that excitement, I believe, helped me to keep writing at moments when I felt the book was at an impasse, when I couldn't seem to dig my way out of a particular scene, or maybe a particular sentence. It's invaluable to have a universe opening up in front of you at a time when this other universe, your primary universe, once so expansive, seems, maybe, to be narrowing, to be almost pushing you out.
The tunes I've listed here represent a tiny fraction of those I'd like to include. You'll see there are no ballads--I can't write when I'm sad or sleepy--and if you notice a preponderance of guitarists it's because, in an effort to better understand what I was hearing, I began (and continue) taking lessons.
"Jordu" (and really every track on All Night Sessions), Hampton Hawes [All Night Sessions]
"St. Thomas," Sonny Rollins [Saxophone Colossus]
"Billie's Bounce," Jimmy Raney [The Master]
"D-Natural Blues," Wes Montgomery [The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery]
"Besame Mucho," Wes Montgomery [Boss Guitar]
"Ornithology," Jimmy Bruno and Jeniffer Leitham [Two for the Road]
"Killer Joe," Benny Golson [The Best of Benny Golson]
"Idle Moments," Mike Ledonne (with Peter Bernstein on guitar) [On Fire]
"Little Juicy," Joe Cohn [Restless]
"Puttin' on the Ritz," Gypsy Swing Revue [Puttin' on the Ritz]
"Grandstand," Joshua Breakstone [Remembering Grant Green]
"Turn Out the Stars," Kurt Rosenwinkel [East Coast Love Affair]
"Oleo," Louis Stewart [Overdrive]
"Yardbird Suite," Tal Farlow [The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow]
Christopher Narozny and Jonah Man links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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