How have American writers written about jazz, and how has jazz influenced American literature? In Fascinating Rhythm, David Yaffe explores the relationship and interplay between jazz and literature, looking at jazz musicians and the themes literature has garnered from them by appropriating the style, tones, and innovations of jazz, and demonstrating that the poetics of jazz has both been assimilated into, and deeply affected, the development of twentieth-century American literature.
Yaffe explores how Jewish novelists such as Norman Mailer, J. D. Salinger, and Philip Roth engaged issues of racial, ethnic, and American authenticity by way of jazz; how Ralph Ellison's descriptions of Louis Armstrong led to a "neoconservative" movement in contemporary jazz; how poets such as Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, and Frank O'Hara were variously inspired by the music; and how memoirs by Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis both reinforced and redeemed the red light origins of jazz. The book confronts the current jazz discourse and shows how poets and novelists can be placed in it--often with problematic results. Fascinating Rhythm stops to listen for the music, demonstrating how jazz continues to speak for the American writer.
"David Yaffe's Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing provides a brilliant account of the music's often overlooked influence on J.D. Salinger, Philip Roth and other lights of the literary firmament"--Alex Abramovich, Playboy
"This lively and provocative book exemplifies the very best of jazz writing by scholars working primarily outside the discipline of musicology."--Mervyn Cooke, Music and Letters
"David Yaffe's Fascinating Rhythm is a marvelously evocative celebration of the interrelationships between modern American writing and jazz, which is in itself the outstanding American contribution to the arts, at least since Walt Whitman. I find particularly poignant the understanding that Ralph Ellison's true sequel to his Invisible Man was his poetics of jazz."--Harold Bloom
"This is a fascinating and formidable response to Ralph Ellison's famous call for a 'jazz-shaped' reading of American literature. Yaffe's bold and often brilliant treatments of black-Jewish relations in twentieth-century U.S. culture, Ellison's own seminal works, poetry and jazz influences, and the autobiographies of Mingus, Holiday, and Miles Davis are major contributions to American and Afro-American studies."--Cornel West, Princeton University
"Fascinating Rhythm is an extremely absorbing and compelling demonstration of the key part jazz played in the construction of literary modernism. The book demonstrates an unusually mature intellectual self-possession and great analytic insight into U.S. cultural history, particularly the area of race and music. Yaffe is on his way to becoming one of the most notable public and scholarly writers of his generation."--Eric Lott, University of Virginia, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class
Table of Contents:
Acknowledgments Introduction 1
CHAPTER 1. WHITE NEGROES AND NATIVE SONS BLACKS AND JEWS IN WORDS AND MUSIC 15
CHAPTER 2. LISTENING TO ELLISON TRANSGRESSION AND TRADITION IN ELLISON’S JAZZ WRITINGS 61
CHAPTER 3. STOMPING THE MUSE JAZZ, POETRY, AND THE PROBLEMATIC MUSE 99
CHAPTER 4. LOVE FOR SALE HUSTLING THE JAZZ MEMOIR 150