Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Take five

Current book: Jazz
Pages read: 3 - 229 (end)

Yeah, I read this all at once. Well, actually, I read some yesterday, but most of it was this morning on the elliptical. You might be thinking, "Oh, it must have been really compelling." That would be a reasonable assumption, but a wrong one. Actually, I found it rambling and a bit obnoxious. It was not entirely unlike Faulkner.

So, the gist is this: Violet, a 50-something woman living in Harlem in the 20s, is married to Joe Trace. Joe steps out on her with a teenage girl, Dorcas (I know. It was a bad era for names.), whom he ends up shooting because she cheats on him. Alice, Dorcas's adoptive mother, becomes friends with Violet afterward, and explains how she tried to treat Dorcas right and, in fact, raised her in almost Puritanical fashion. Dorcas's friend, Felice, eventually explains to Violet how conniving Dorcas was, and that Joe wasn't as much at fault as he seems. Violet and Joe stay together. Included, also, are the stories of Violet and Joe's youth and their marriage in the rural South.

Morrison's style was obviously supposed to be modeled on the wandering improvisations of jazz, but, as usual for me, I found the wandering improvisational quality annoying rather than masterful. (Come to think of it, I'm not a big fan of jazz for the same reason.) The book is successful in creating a portrait of 20s Harlem, I guess, but I found the story less than interesting and the characters neither sympathetic nor compelling. When you add to that the fact that it meanders around and jumps in time, I was not a fan. Does that mean I think Toni Morrison's not a good writer? No, actually. I think she did what she set out to do and that successfully. I didn't like it, nor do I think it was transcendent, but it was literature. Not one of the best 100, though.

And, we're moving on.

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