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Train Whistle Guitar

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  162 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Set in 1920s Alabama, this novel follows the life of a young boy and the lessons he learns in school, at Papa Gumbo Willie McWorthy's barbershop, and from Luzana Cholly, a gun-toting guitar player. ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 24th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Robert Mitchell
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The fact that I am just now reading Albert Murray, 97 years after his birth and a month after his death, is troubling. I should have learned about him in high school, should have taken a class focused solely on his works in college and should have been talking about him with our two sons in the same conversations in which I mentioned Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Salinger, Kerouac and Twain. It isn’t the fault of the preceding giants of literature that they were white men, but it is my fault, ...more
Richard Derus
Rating: 2.875* of five

The Book Report: Coming of age as an African-American lad in 1920s Alabama. Lightly fictionalized version of the author's memoir, SOUTH TO A VERY OLD PLACE, which is superb and should have been left alone.

My Review: Not a novel. Just not. It's too much like the memoir for me to buy the novel designation. Murray writes beautiful sentences, goodness knows, but his choice to call this fiction is disingenuous. The only thing that really separates this from his earlier memoir is
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who can listen.
I love this book.

This is one of those little gems someone recommends to you off the cuff where it ends up changing your life. Yeah. I was on a pretty drama-riddled holiday and this book... this book made the holiday good. This book took me to a different place, with a different beat. I felt a subtle shift in me. The shift, in this case, was to look through newly opened eyes.

I can't say that I was suddenly cool or magically got some hipness. I'm still nerdly and annoying... but I am aware of bei
Sally Boots
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-galaxy
Train Whistle Guitar: Step into the lyrical thought stream of Scooter, an African-American growing up in Alabama in the 1920s. In his breathless, artless kid-voice, he talks about bootleggers, rednecks, scandals, war, baseball, love, trains, family and music, all in an impressionistic medley of stories that somehow end up forming a growing-up tale. This is the most musical narrative writing I have read in a long time.
Andrea Badgley
Set in 1920s Gasoline Point, Alabama, a fictitious town based on author Albert Murray’s hometown of Magazine Point, Train Whistle Guitar is a coming of age story of Scooter, a young black boy who with his friend Little Buddy, learns about life by hopping a train, wandering the woods, listening to grownups at garden fences and fireside circles, hiding underfoot at the barbershop, or perching in trees at night to watch dancing in the jook joint. In each of these settings, Murray not only captures ...more
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Train Whistle Guitar by Albert Murray

Scooter and his friend Little Buddy Marshall live in Gasoline Point, Alabama where they run together and both admire the gun toting, guitar playing Luzana Cholly. So much so they plan on hopping freight trains and traveling around like him until Luzana catches them and sends them back home to learn about life from their kin, school rooms, barbershops, churches and honky tonks.

This is a semi-autobiographical fiction coming of age tale which reminds me of Jack
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of Joyce, lovers of Nabakov, lovers of TKAM, people of exceptional taste, poets
Recommended to h. by: Dr. Keith Clark
Possibly one of the most under-rated masterpieces of the 20th century. When I added this there were only 46 Goodreads ratings and 2 reviews!! Impossible to describe, but look it up. I hate it that such an excellent read has yet to make it into the hands of exceptional readers.
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My essay on Albert Murray's genius: ...more
Vel Veeter
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that I can't entirely tell if I liked all that much, but also that if you told it was actually really good, I would believe you. It's not entirely that it was "over my head" so much is outside of my experience, especially in terms of language and style, that I didn't find it as joyous to read as a lot of other readers seem to. That said, it's clearly up to something impressive that I cannot deny it. So I came upon this book from reading the Collected Letters of Ralph E ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This wasn't a smooth read, kind of choppy at times, but I did find the dialect and story interesting and was hard to put down. I thought it was going to be more of a blues novel than it was, I will say it inspired me to keep writing in the Old South, back when the Blues were king. ...more
Makes me mad when I discover an author so good I should have heard of him decades ago.
Albert Murray's work should be on lists of 100 best authors of USA. WHY ISN"T HE???

Murray in this largely autobiographical [?] book shows me an Alabama community I would never have had access to without him.

The most unusual aspect of Murray's 1920s childhood near Mobile in this small Alabama town [the black neighborhood of the town, to be precise] is the great extent to which children are/were raised not j
Barbara Rhine
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a coming-of-age novel about an African American boy in the Jim Crow south, and as such, it is the best I have ever read. Murry manages to depict black life under what we now know were very oppressive conditions as joyfully complex, rather than simply miserable. And his rendition of black dialect is such an improvement over the "dem," "dose," "dere" (for them, those, there) approach of the mainstream (often white) authors such as Mark Twain. I thought reading Train Whistle Guitar wou ...more
Paul Jellinek
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It took me a couple of chapters to get into this one, but once I did, I was hooked. A coming-of-age story set in southern Alabama, "Train Whistle Guitar" is an honest-to-God blues disguised as a novel. ...more
Charles Weaver
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful lyrical book. It reminded me a little of Huckleberry Finn in the way it describes the boy. A great evocation of a black community near Mobile Alabama in the period between the two world wars.
Itasca Community Library
Jeff says:

This is a fictionalized semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale which reminds me of Jack Kerouac’s work, especially On the Road. I really enjoyed the writing as well as the story, which makes me think of old-fashioned Southern America life with its blues and jazz, as well as gospel.
Jun 06, 2015 added it
Enjoyed it especially for the language of the time.
Joe M
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sweet coming-of-age tale in the Deep South. Murray's characters are richly drawn and clearly inspired from his own childhood. ...more
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