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Coming Through Slaughter

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  4,366 Ratings  ·  378 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
ebook, 160 pages
Published March 23rd 2011 by Vintage (first published 1976)
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Johann C.M. Laesecke 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

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Matthew Quann
Aug 05, 2016 Matthew Quann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Josh Bragg
[3.5 Stars]

The first time I put on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew I was laying on my bed in the dilapidated housing the university passed off as residence. The walls were cold brick on three sides and thin plaster on the wall that separated me from my neighboring roommate. It was a perpetually cold room, whose prison cell-like quality was only overshadowed by the little outside light the east facing windows allowed in. This was during the time when I had a brief foray into the world of cigarette smok
Khashayar Mohammadi
"Idiosyncratic" would be an understatement. Its as if Italo Calvino is adapting a Wong-Kar-Wai script into a novel. Ondaatje dances on the sharp edge of Prose and Poetry. People are condensed into single paragraphs, experiences condensed into single words; its a lyrical Arpeggio of emotions ending in a sublime crescendo. A minimalist arpeggio that creates a cavernous symphony by striking the essential notes of human existence.
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
MJ Nicholls
The one novel on the Isle of Arran for sale that was remotely acceptable. There are no longer any remotely acceptable novels for sale on the Isle of Arran.
Mar 20, 2009 Pierce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 13, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2008 Reed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2008 Gretchen rated it it was amazing  ·  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

Now THIS is more like it. Experimental, impressionistic prose in the wild subjective to convey the surging, elemental sensibility of one of the deeply mythological founders of that kind of thing and it necessitates this kind of writing. very much enjoyed...
Carl R.
Jul 07, 2015 Carl R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Ondaatje won't stay put. I've followed him from San Francisco (Divisadero) to Sri Lanka--one of his native lands--(Anil's Ghost) to the bowels of a Sri Lanka-to-England-to-Canada cruise ship (Cat's Table) to historical Toronto (Skin of a Lion) and finally to New Orleans for Coming Through Slaughter. Every Journey has been full of edification and delight.

Before Louis Armstrong and all of them there was Buddy Bolden, said to be the hottest trumpeter in all the Big Easy. He was never record
Patrick McCoy
I decided to read Michael Ondaajte's jazz age novel, Coming Through Slaughter (1976), as background reading to color in my recent trip to New Orleans. And color it did provide: sex, love triangles, gambling, drinking, whoring, music and a tour of the now lost Storyville red light district. This novel is a fictional depiction of the life of an obscure jazz musician, coronet player Buddy Bolden. It is experimental in form and has a lyrical quality that sets it apart from other novels in that much ...more
May 05, 2016 Aolund rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to reading this novel, enticed by the promise of lyrical writing and a look into the life of New Orleanian jazz musician Buddy Bolden. All I found was a rambling, imitative style (think Nabokov, Faulkner, but less tightly written), and incessant focus on sex and women-as-sex-objects; almost every sex scene included violent language and felt misogynistic. While a motif of sex and sexuality would have been nothing to complain about in and of itself, it seemed a shame that thi ...more
Mar 16, 2016 Ivana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nedopričljivi
Najgori osjećaj na svijetu kad knjizi zapičiš dvicu i onda vidiš da ispod padaju četvorke, petice, petice, petice, četvorke, petice, četvorke, pa se bojiš da ti nedostaje neki senzibilitet, neki dio inteligencije koji bi ti pomogao da uočiš što je to tako vrijedno i lijepo u ovoj kaotičnoj knjizi. No ne mogu se više praviti fina i davati neutralne trojke knjigama koje mi se nisu svidjele. I neću više govoriti da je problem u meni, a ne u knjizi.

Sad kad sam obavila svetu čitateljskoklupsku dužno
Feb 12, 2007 A-ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Halley Sutton
Jul 09, 2015 Halley Sutton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm aware that I've been giving crappy reviews lately (not that any of you care. I CARE). I'm going to continue that trend. The most interesting thing here was how form fits function--this novel is a blues song in a book. Would probably not have chosen to read it on my own and it's not super helpful to my current aesthetic but still interesting.
Nov 20, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2010 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Coming Through Slaughter is a story I revisit often. I have read this story countless times, each time appreciating the writing and narrative more and more. Ondaatje is a wordsmith and his talent shines with his ability to intertwine fragments of song, faded photographs along with snippets of dialog. Buddy Bolden is an enigma and Ondaatje's prose preserves the shroud of mystery this talented musician deserves.

 photo image_zps215f8aa5.jpg

Admirers of poetry, music, history, lovers of Buddy Bolden, jazz and of course New
Aug 31, 2009 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: louisiana
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
Sep 27, 2007 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2010 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2007 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jun 30, 2012 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jim Minick
Dec 14, 2016 Jim Minick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book!
Nov 02, 2011 Darryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jelena Susak
Jooj. Zapravo je on dobro predočio to vrijeme, atmosferu na prijelazu stoljeća (19. na Ali mene nije dotaklo. Kažu liričnost do besvijesti, mene se osobno nije dojmila ni njegova hipersenzibilna duša ("Svih se bojao". -42-), ni njegova agresija, ni napuštanje žene i djece na dvije godine, ni "veza" s prijateljevom ženom (a istodobno silna ljubomora prema svojoj), ni seksanje na sve strane i prljavrština i naturalizam vezan uz to, ni taština (ljubomoran je na Picketta, zato ga je izrezao ...more
Rona Synczyszyn
Aug 04, 2013 Rona Synczyszyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Denver Public Library
Dec 22, 2016 Denver Public Library rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: porscha
Coming through Slaughter has been called the best jazz novel ever written, with a lyrical writing style compared to jazz music. It’s a fictional biography about one of the original trumpet giants of New Orleans, Buddy Bolden. Though it takes place around 1907 and was written in the late 1970’s, it reads as timeless. The story uses the few known facts about Buddy Bolden and turns them into a gripping story. It follows Bolden through the last couple months of his sanity as he succumbs to schizophr ...more
Anthony Panegyres
The moving story of a tragic figure, Bolden the cornet player, a larger than life character who (according to many) revolutionised the music genre, yet only scant evidence remains of his life and times, along with his playing.

Ondaatje's 'jazz novel' certainly reflects the jazz experience. There's experimentation throughout yet there's also a steadying thread or 'refrain', which the work returns to. Made up of vignettes, some more likable than others, the work is both wild and tame, raw and poeti
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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
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“This last night we tear into each other, as if to wound, as if to find the key to everything before morning.” 108 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.” 12 likes
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