Patrick O'Connell's Reviews > Coming Through Slaughter

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
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's review
Mar 31, 08

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 historical records, others as coventional narrative, and others in the impressionistic style of poetry.

At times a little hard to follow, as in modern Jazz, the story requires, at times, intent listening, and at others, just simply letting the notes wash over you.

Contemporary accounts of Bolden's musical style described it as "searching for the note that wasn't there", perhaps a metaphor for his life, and for me conjuring up thoughts of the playing style of Jazz's modern greats.

In the end, I was left with the impression that this book, while the curious story of a long-lost Jazz musician, was as much an inventive Jazz composition itself, one that at times searches for notes, but never quite loses the melody which is the story of the life of Buddy Bolden.

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Anna Great review!

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