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Bass Cathedral (From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate #4)

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  32 ratings  ·  6 reviews
The Great American Jazz Novel by Nathaniel Mackey, winner of the 2006 National Book Award.

Los Angeles, October 1982: Molimo m'Atet, formerly known as the The Mystic Horn Society, is preparing to release its new album Orphic Bend. The members of the jazz ensemble—Aunt Nancy, Djamilaa, Drennette, Lambert, N., and Penguin—are witness to a strange occurrence: while listening t
Paperback, 183 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by New Directions Publishing Corporation
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Apr 26, 2008 Tim added it
Shelves: 2008
Fourth in Mackey's FaBBToPSE series of epistolary novels. David Hadju, in a recent review in the NY Times, called the books in the series "essentially interchangeable," and he's right; but not in the way that David Markson's last four books have been interchangeable--rather they're more like albums from an artist whose albums all sound much the same but are all still great anyway. Bass Cathedral (and the rest of the books in the series) is erudite, idiosyncratic, full of stylish prose, occasiona ...more
Like the TARDIS, this book is bigger than it appears on the outside and there are intimations of wonderful things. Like the Doctor, however, The Author doesn't give up his secrets willingly. In fact, he'd rather not give them up, casting prose at you that breaks and doubles back and repeats, perhaps, if you can decipher the words.

It was, for me, a difficult book. I don't speak the language of jazz; neither, it turns out, does my dictionary. I read it, essentially, for the chorus, for the parts t
Evan Woodward
A friend got me this book as a surprise gift which I really appreciated, as it is a singularly bizarre book that I never would have picked up on my own.

Mackey is an Anthony Braxton or a Sonny Sharrock of words. Inventing phrases, conjuring idioms, sonorous and flowing at times, jarring and jagged at others. I found the story itself to be less than thrilling, but his method of telling it to be fascinating.
Mackey definitely is pushing the boundaries of novel, and I'm curious to read the other volumes in this multi-volume work. However, it seemed on occasion that Mackey was being intentionally disdainful of his reader, and comes across as pretentious. I'd also recommend having a working knowledge of jazz and a handy dictionary.
I only read about 1/3 of this book, and I did not enjoy what I read. I think the writing is technically great, but it was too dense and the story didn't seem to make much sense to me. I would skip this one, though it may reflect my lack of understanding more than any bad writing.
Shuk Wah Lee
High literature indeed. Too high to comprehend.
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Poet and novelist Nathaniel Mackey was born in 1947 in Miami, Florida. He received a BA degree from Princeton University and a PhD from Stanford University.

Nathaniel Mackey has received numerous awards including a Whiting Writer’s Award and a 2010 Guggenheim fellowship. He is the Reynolds Price Professor of English at Duke University and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from
More about Nathaniel Mackey...

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From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate (4 books)
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