Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Coming Through Slaughter” as Want to Read:
Coming Through Slaughter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Coming Through Slaughter

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  3,408 ratings  ·  284 reviews
Bringing to life the fabulous, colorful panorama of New Orleans in the first flush of the jazz era, this book tells the story of Buddy Bolden, the first of the great trumpet players--some say the originator of jazz--who was, in any case, the genius, the guiding spirit, and the king of that time and place.

In this fictionalized meditation, Bolden, an unrecorded father of Ja
...more
ebook, 160 pages
Published March 23rd 2011 by Vintage (first published 1976)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Coming Through Slaughter, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Road Trip Dog I am about halfway through this book and would agree to the dark and chilling review comments. As for experimental in form, it was published in 1976…moreI am about halfway through this book and would agree to the dark and chilling review comments. As for experimental in form, it was published in 1976 and reprinted many times so one might think there should be a lot of opinion out there about it. At this point I would give it two stars but will wait till the end to decide. It's not an easy read although a h.s. senior with a mind for this kind of reading could handle it. I can see lots of room for interpretations and discussions from this book. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Michael
I wanted to love this first novel of Ondaatje, but I am left feeling it is like a jazz improvisation that doesn’t achieve flight enough to linger long in the mind. My disappointment feels similar to looking for a Picasso Blue Period in the origins of his mastery and turning up instead an aborted Cubist Period. Still, it was worth it for me to experience this dalliance with a postmodernist structure and witness his transition from poet to novelist.

This slim 1976 book is an ambitious attempt to br
...more
Patrick O'Connell
This a fictional story based on the rich, the tragic, and true life of the New Orleans Jazz Musician Buddy Bolden. A historical figure of whom we know very little, of whom there is only one extant photo, and no recordings. Yet we know he eventually goes mad.

Michael Ondaatje weaves a captivating story from only shreds of evidence through a form of prose that I have never quite seen before. The narrator is constantly shifting, as is the chronology, as is the word form. Parts of this read like his
...more
Matt
Wow, what a book!

I haven't read Ondaatje before, or at least not much, and I don't know what I expected, but the level of lyricism from page to page, paragraph to paragraph was really stunning and made this a really rather incredible read.

There are places where I have issues with it, or at least think I do (what happens to Webb, or the fact that the insanity seems so, I don't know, underconsidered-- maybe it's just me, but the link between these romantic triangles Bolden found himself in and the
...more
Paul Harris
In June 1907, Charles "Buddy" Bolden is 'escorted' by Civil Sheriffs McMurray and Jones en route from New Orleans to an insane asylum in Jackson, Louisiana. He has suffered a complete breakdown while playing with Henry Allen's Brass Band ('Red' Allen's father), marching in the Crescent City. He had broken blood vessels in his neck, and they had come through a small town called Slaughter on their way. These are some of the few hard facts known of the life of one of jazz's earliest pioneers, a lif ...more
Pierce
Sometimes you read something by an author and it's very good, and you think back over their other stuff that you've read, and realise that it was all good, and some of it was even very good, or very, very good, and you see suddenly that this writer is actually one of your absolute favourites, you just never articulated the thought until now.

I haven't read anything in a while that made me wish I could write as much as this. Not to say it was perfect. It's an early work and you can see how his cr
...more
Reed
There are few books that I say I will read again that I actually do (my opinion is that there are far too many books to re-read), and even fewer that I actually do read them again. This is one book that I believe will be one of those select few.

Often the heart is the one thing about poetry I actually understand. In this novel Ondatji's poetic heart comes through in a form I can relate to. Matters of genre-defining aside, this is truly a beautiful book of words and story.

I was moved and "in" fro
...more
Jamie
Huh. There are some books that your brain thinks it should like and some books where your gut just says "fuck yeah!" My brain liked this book a lot more than my gut. Which was good, because at only 160 pages my gut didn't have enough time to put the thing aside forever

Although the last five pages were a slog. In bed, after midnight, forcing myself through extreme drowsiness to finish. Figured I'd gotten too far to give up just five pages to the end. Now I can recommend this in a pretentious voi
...more
Mike
for years people have told me i'd love this book because i love jazz and new orleans and historical fiction and poetic prose. buddy bolden was one of the seminal figures in jazz; a coronet man who introduced what marsalis calls "the big sound" that wound church and street and blues music into what became "jass" and led to king oliver and so on down the road. buddy bolden went insane and was committed to a mental hospital in 1907. the author makes a ton of hay showing through skewed prose and cho ...more
Gretchen
Mar 13, 2008 Gretchen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ondaatje fans
I read this in an attempt to understand a little more about New Orleans. I haven't been. And to read more of Ondaatje, who I love. And because I was 32, a year older than Buddy Bolden when he went insane.
Set in the Storyville district of New Orleans in the early days of the Jazz era, CTS unravels Bolden's life, (barber by day, cornet player by night) his sorted love life, madness, death-obsession, and jazz. Lyrical prose. Did I say lyrical? Sorry.

"And as told in Coming Through Slaughter, his sto
...more
A-ron
I found this book absolutely haunting. As I've said before no other writer that I know of writes so damn... emotionally as Ondaatje. I was put inside the soul of jazz man Buddy Bolden - and his mind. This book is in turns maddeningly austere, and in others florid with intensity. Portions of this novel also have a pasted together feel, like overly humid newspaper clippings laid in collage upon a New Orleans light post. It lends itself well to a man who was said to have lost his mind.
Andrea
The novel Coming Through Slaughter was written by Michael Ondaatje, a prize winning author and poet. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka; he first got his writing skills by taking up poetry then moving onto making books. Some of his creations even being made into movies, such as Carry on Crime and Punishment, The Clinton Special, and Royal Canadian Hounds.
In the novel Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje, introduces Buddy Bolden a famous jazz musician. The story takes place in New Orleans in the j
...more
Jane
There are phrases bouncing around the summary and reviews for this book that I think are a little wrong in tone. This book is highly concerned with documentary evidence (both its limitations and its necessity in memorializing the victims of crimes against humanity, in which category East Louisiana State Hospital surely falls), poetic and fragmentary, as concerned with honoring distance and difference as with creating intimacy. This is not so much a fictional recreation as a sequence of imaginati ...more
Matthew
Buddy Bolden was the greatest cornet player, the innovator, set the music free, the man who folks like Bunk Johnson and Louis Armstrong said started it all, beat the path for all other great jazzmen to follow.

Bolden lost his mind in a parade in a 1907 and spent the rest of his life in an asylum. He had blown out the vessels in his neck with the exertion of his playing. And he never made any recordings.

Ondaatje gathers every piece of information available on this legend, and engages in lurid fant
...more
Darryl
The cornetist Buddy Bolden (1877-1931) is widely credited as being one of the creators of the music now known as jazz. He was born in New Orleans and formed a band in 1895, which was centered in the red light district known as Storyville and soon became one of the most popular ones in the city (Bolden is seen with his band, standing second from the left in this 1905 photograph). He was influenced by ragtime music, the blues and music from the church, and combined these elements into a unique for ...more
Rona Synczyszyn
My Dad was a big New Orleans jazz fan, so I grew up with the music, and with the legend of Buddy Bolden, whose playing has been the subject of much conjecture. He never recorded, so we can only guess what the first real jazz soloist sounded like. Later, I rejected all that old-fogey stuff for a while, but I'm getting back into it now, which is why I looked forward to reading this novel, and finished it fast.

However, vaunted as the best jazz novel ever, reading 'Coming Through Slaughter' came as
...more
Chris
This fictionalization of the life of Buddy Bolden--the unrecorded cornet-playing genius who many argue is New Orleans' first "real" jazzman and who went bat-shit insane while blasting on his horn as he led a parade through the streets of New Orleans--is pretty hotdamn fantastic. Ondaatje is both poet and novelist, and here he strikes a near perfect balance. It's only 150 pages, but I took my time, rereading passages two and three times before moving on and reading large chunks of the novel aloud ...more
Brent Legault
There are so many awful, awful novels set in New Orleans and somewhere, everywhere, our landfills are filling up with them, our gutters are overflowing with them and our eyes and ears have had it up to here with them.

This is not one of those novels. This book doesn't need the New Orleans "vibe" to electrify an otherwise dead-on-arrival story. It doesn't need "colorful eccentrics" and "quaint architecture" and "dumb dialect" to liven up a stiff style. It's a novel that lives and breathes by itsel
...more
Caroline
Jun 04, 2008 Caroline rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Matt Dube
This was recommended to me at a perfect time (just coming out of a Ken Burns Jazz phase). I wouldn't say that as a whole this book *blew me away*, but I would say that individual sections and single phrases absolutely did. I often found myself so dazzled by his language that I forgot to think about how that particular section fit into the overall story.

I have the utmost appreciation for Ondaatje's approach and play with form--the book itself reads kinda jazz-like (multi-tonal, multi-vocal, se
...more
Novieta Tourisia
Reading Coming Through Slaughter felt like a punch in my heart. It's emotional, haunting, deep and honest. Takes place between 1900 and 1907, it unfolds true life of the New Orleans jazz progenitor Buddy Bolden, whose type is haughty and womanizing, yet happened to engage to be sympathetic.

I read this book twice. First was a couple years ago, when I just got the book, but didn't finish it. And during my spare time last week, I've finally made it. Not as smooth as reading Ondaatje's The English P
...more
Lois
I'm probably one of the few people in North America who has neither seen nor read The English Patient. But I do know that dreams and flashbacks are a major part of that work. This book, written in 1976, predates The English Patient by 16 years. It has a dreamy, surreal style to it throughout. What's true and what's not?

New Orleans and its environs is a central character in this book. It's impossible to imagine Buddy Bolden and his friends and associates anywhere else. The story can't be anywher
...more
Scott mcdougall
good book but i found it to be very emotional and difficult to read because at the time i was studying jazz piano intently. The subject of the book is Buddy Bolden, a jazz trumpeter before Louis Armstrong, who has a difficult time dealing with his creative side and has fantasies of cutting off his hands so he can no longer play, so he no longer has to live with the curse of being consumed by music.

I don't reccomend this book to anyone. Too dark. But it was well written.
Tim Wagner
Jun 29, 2007 Tim Wagner rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brendan
This book kicked my ass. Maybe 'cause of personal experience, but at the time i read it, its fractured, perspective-by-creative-impulse structure spoke to me biggee timee. It's a beautiful example of intuitive composition, of poetry integrated with prose, a raw, guttural illustration of Ondaatje's imaginative response to an all-but-forgotten personal history. Occasional sentences that take your breath away. Read it when it's hot outside.
Christopher
Could be a twin book to The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. Ondaatje seems to have an affinity for ghost-like characters whose sparse biographies allow him room to create his own content. His sporadic mix of prose and poetry seem perfect for subjects that are more known via myth and rumor than anything else. Coming Through Slaughter isn't a biography, it's a close-shot portrait of a life and a talent gone awry. Excellent stuff.
Amanda
so much build up to this book, i had high expectations. it started out strongly, the main character was very compelling, but i found it was watered down by the back and forth between his voice and other narratives. i think Ondaatje fucked this one up deliberately in order to try to make it more "literary" when he could have just told a good story. that's what i dislike about O's fiction. i remember now.
Ashley Hay
Kim Forrester, who has the constantly interesting "Triple Choice Tuesday" blog, asked me to nominate three books for her when "The Railwayman's Wife" was published in the UK and one of my choices was Michael Ondaatje's "Coming Through Slaughter" as my favourite. I've lost count of the number of times I've read it - it really does constitute the "comfort re-reading" I mentioned in the post.

As I said there, too, "The book’s opening section — “His Geography” — carries me through its words in a kin
...more
Alexwentworth
Ondaatje's brilliant début novella gives us a dark and colourful snapshot of the life of troubled New Orleans cornet player, Buddy Bolden. After an early diagnosis of schizophrenia, Bolden is consigned to an asylum and his life and work becomes a fragment of myth, dredged up by Ondaatje years later. The haunting prose and visceral imagining of Bolden's milieu are a work of art.
Marcos
Truly sets the tone of future Ondaatje novels: Fragmented, lyrical, bitter and disturbing. This book loosely based on jazz trumpet player Buddy Bolden's tragic life is a small masterpiece that carefully crafts details around a man's wounded ego and misunderstood talent. I found it difficult to put down. My life really stops everything to read what this author has to say.
Chelsey
So this wasn't something I would ever pick to read on my own (read for school), and although it was interesting in its own way, I found it really hard to get into. I disliked most of the characters and the prose (which I suspect is styled in a jazz flow/ to mimick the mind of a mad man) threw me off completely. A little to dark for my liking, but still interesting nonetheless.
Bemused
Most readers I know favour The English Patient, but this is my favourite novel by Ondaatje. Maybe because I love jazz and the trumpet is my favourite instrument (Lous Armstrong, love ya) made this resonate with me so much, but I do think this is a more moving novel. The love in it is so much more real and bittersweet to me. Jazz lovers have to read this book not only for the story, but for the musical rhythm as the main character goes through the town of Slaughter in one of the most poignant lit ...more
Andres Eguiguren
Ondaatje's first novel does not read like one. Made of many jazz-influenced fragments, it tells the story of famous early jazz cornetist Charles "Buddy" Bolden. As the guide at the back of the digital edition says, it takes actual accounts of Bolden's life, oral history, psychiatric reports, poetry, interior monologues, various points of view, song lyrics, narrative.... and melds it all into a concoction that is often quite interesting but not always easy to read. It's like one of those free jaz ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Mountain and the Valley
  • The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
  • Famous Last Words
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen
  • Small Change
  • By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
  • The Fire-Dwellers
  • Murther and Walking Spirits
  • The Winter Vault
  • But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz
  • Mister Sandman
  • The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos
  • Consolation
  • Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology
  • Finbar's Hotel
  • The Withdrawal Method
  • The Progress of Love
  • Shuttlecock
4030
He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more
More about Michael Ondaatje...
The English Patient The Cat's Table In the Skin of a Lion Anil's Ghost Divisadero

Share This Book

“This last night we tear into each other, as if to wound, as if to find the key to everything before morning.” 85 likes
“But there was a discipline, it was just that we didn't understand. We thought he was formless, but I think now he was tormented by order, what was outside it. He tore apart the plot - see his music was immediately on top of his own life. Echoing. As if, when he was playing he was lost and hunting for the right accidental notes. Listening to him was like talking to Coleman. You were both changing direction with every sentence, sometimes in the middle, using each other as a springboard through the dark. You were moving so fast it was unimportant to finish and clear everything. He would be describing something in 27 ways. There was pain and gentleness everything jammed into each number.” 9 likes
More quotes…