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
Open Preview

Coming Through Slaughter

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  5,179 ratings  ·  464 reviews
At the turn of the century, the Storyville district of New Orleans had some 2,000 prostitutes, 70 professional gamblers, and 30 piano players. It had only one man who played the cornet like Buddy Bolden. By day he cut hair and purveyed gossip at N. Joseph's Shaving Parlor. At night he played jazz as though unleashing wild animals in a crowded room. At the age of thirty-one ...more
Paperback, 156 pages
Published March 19th 1996 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
Johann 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

Showing 1-30
3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,179 ratings  ·  464 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jeffrey Keeten
”What he did too little of was sleep and what he did too much of was drink and many interpreted his later crack-up as a morality tale of a talent that debauched itself. But his life at this time had a fine and precise balance to it, with a careful allotment of hours. A barber, a publisher of The Cricket, a cornet player, good husband and father, and an infamous man about town.”

 photo 547048b7-71e5-4ba5-b66a-e501df5dbafd_zpsz6ce79zo.png

Buddy Bolden takes ragtime and infuses it with the blues, creating a new music called Jass, an early offspring of what
Michael Ondaatje was already well established as a poet when he published this, a poet's first novel if ever there was one. It's an attempt to recreate the inner life of Buddy Bolden, a cornet player and pioneer of the new kind of American music that would soon become known as jass or jazz. No recordings exist of Bolden's playing, and very little is known of his life beyond the fact that he had a breakdown during a Mardi Gras parade, died years later in a Louisiana asylum, and was thought of by ...more
Matthew Quann
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Josh Bragg
Shelves: oh-canada
[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.
Jan 22, 2011 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
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Paul Secor
Thinking about this book, I remembered a line that's spoken near the end of the film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".
Donald M. Marquis, in his book In Search of Buddy Bolden ,, put together probably as many facts about the legendary New Orleans musician as we'll ever come to know. Michael Ondaatje, in this novel about Buddy Bolden (which was written before Marquis' book was published) has written a haunt
English Patient, who? 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...
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a lyrical, rhythmic story about real events, in the first decade of the 20th century. Many credit Charles "Buddy" Bolden as the creator of jazz, that most truly original American contribution to the arts. Ondaatje tells the story using a facsimile of the language of the time, and splays it out upon the page as if a jazz chart. It was fun, but bracing in its hardcore plundering and physical destruction of the human body and brain, the latter in the form of the shocking schizophrenia that ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Patrick O'Connell
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Barth Siemens
This novella leaves me wondering:

Am I a prude?
Did Ondaatje rely too much on vulgarity rather than digging for story?
Carl R.
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jake Oelrichs
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was my introduction to Ondaatje. When I read it in my early 20’s I was enthralled as if by the appearance of a new and beastly species of animal. I was amazed by its experimental form, poetic sparks, and shockingly brutal imagery.

I’m 40 now, and was very curious to see how Coming Through Slaughter had aged for me. After a recent third reading, I gotta say, it remains one of my all-time favourite novels. Though, I have to admit, I’m now a little bit allergic to some of its dramatic exc
Patrick McCoy
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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 rated it it was ok
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dark, experimental prose that plays with form and language, mirroring Buddy Bolden's descent into madness. Ondaatje has lines that reach up and smack you across the face in this one.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first Ondaatje novel I have read and on the strength of this, I will certainly be seeking out his other books. This is the imagined story of Buddy Bolden, the jazz pioneer about whom very little is actually known, and the prose is exquisite, original, clever and frequently offbeat, just like the best jazz music. At times I was reminded of one of the absurd and highly inventive 'routines' of a William Burroughs novel, for example the incident of the woman who is strangled Isadora Duncan style ...more
Chris Waterford
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didn't like the structure of this. It was like going through someone's desk drawer and finding disjointed bits and pieces of somebody's life that I had never heard of in the first place---but the writing is good.
Nov 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Baltimore's Mansion: A Memoir
  • The Weight of Oranges / Miners Pond / Skin Divers: Poems
  • A Discovery Of Strangers
  • The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
  • Small Change
  • River of the Brokenhearted
  • Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
  • Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology
  • Murther and Walking Spirits (Toronto Trilogy, #1)
  • The Double Hook
  • Mister Sandman
  • Shuttlecock
  • Night Letters
  • Afterlands
  • Finbar's Hotel
  • Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth
  • What They Wanted
  • Vandal Love
See similar books…
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
“This last night we tear into each other, as if to wound, as if to find the key to everything before morning.” 112 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
More quotes…