But Beautiful Paperback – Aug 7 2003
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Besides colorful and expressive music, jazz greats such as Lester Young, Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington led equally colorful, albeit self-destructive, lives. Through this collection of essays, Geoff Dyer recounts some of the more vivid episodes and events these personalities engaged in and illuminates unique aspects of their character that contributed to their music. He also sheds light on the oppression of working within an atmosphere of race-alienation, a hardship that led many to abuse alcohol and drugs, and find solace only in their incredible music. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Dyer (Ways of Telling) here weaves impressionistic fantasies around the lives of eight jazz legends. Though he calls this "imaginative criticism," the vignettes, inspired by photos and writings about the artists, have little to do with music. Rather, he muses about the musicians' personalities and certain episodes in their lives?Lester Young's disastrous stint in the army, Thelonious Monk's inability to communicate with anyone but his wife, Bud Powell's mental breakdown, Chet Baker's drug-induced deterioration, Duke Ellington's endless travels. The colorful essays are sometimes excessively fanciful, and they capture the atmosphere of alienation that surrounded these men who, often wasted by drug and alcohol abuse and worn out from days and nights on the road, seemed to function only when making music. The pretentious "afterword" is irrelevant. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Geoff Dyer's employs his exquisite imagery as a starting point for his "imaginative criticism" of the celebrated and tragic lives of several iconic jazz musicians (including figures such as Chet Baker, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Ben Webster, Charles Mingus, and Bud Powell). While photographs are the inspiration, Dyer's writing is so precise and sensual that he need only describe the photographs (the book has only one small photo). And this is just right for a book about music, his writing is so lyrical that we almost hear the sounds while reading. (In fact. the least effective aspect of the book is the Duke Ellington "road trip" that introduces each chapter, perhaps because the narrative is not connected to any particular Ellington sound.)
Many of the scenes and dialogue (especially the inner dialogue) are necessarily fictions, "assume that what's here has been invented or altered rather than quoted." But Dyer's explains that while his version may veer from the truth, "it keeps faith with the improvisational prerogatives of the form." He mixes truth and fiction into portraits that illuminate what strictly factual history cannot always convey. (Think of Robert Graves' in his WWI memoir/fiction "Goodbye to All That."). Dyer explains that while a photo depicts only a "split second," its "felt duration" may include the unseen moments before and after that split second.Read more ›
But Beautiful hits the reader on several levels; we are taken on a series of journeys into the lives, thoughts, conversations and seminal events of eight Jazz musicians. Between each chapter is inserted a fictional, road-tripping almost ghostly presence of Duke Ellington, a father figure of modern Jazz who may well have known, recorded and very likely influenced all eight men whom Dyer chose to write/riff about. What's real about the eight musicians are the bare-bones facts known to many Jazz fans; Lester Young court-martialed by the Army because of an inability to cope with a racist Drill Sergeant, Chet Baker's teeth knocked out by an angry drug dealer in a seedy, San Francisco diner, Art Pepper sentenced to five years in prison on a Heroin possession conviction and so on. What's possible, and perhaps no less real to the reader are the details of their lives, their anguish and the self-destructive passions which attend the day to day living of so many creative people. Dyer draws these details in part through listening to the music and inspiration gained by looking at photographs of some of the musicians. 'Not as they were but as they appear to me....Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you ever loved a jazz tune, you will love these pages. Not for anything else but for beauty in the art itself. Sobering, BUT BEAUTIFUL.Published on Feb. 18 2000
This book captures the essence of jazz. Every nuance from languid to livid, sad to sublime is etched out by Dyer's poetic and harmonious flow of prose. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2000 by David M. Motzenbecker
Dyer's book is the best writing on musicians I've encountered, ranking alongside Greil Marcus's MYSTERY TRAIN and Nick Kent's THE DARK STUFF. Read morePublished on Sept. 3 1999
But Beautiful is brilliant. If you're a jazz fan, you must read this book. If you're not a jazz fan, you must also read this book. Read morePublished on Aug. 7 1999
It succeeds as a literary piece regardless of your feeling about jazz as a musical form. The book stands out in my mind as a total sensory experience; I still carry images evoked... Read morePublished on Dec 31 1998
It let your imagine and create the music and the scenes in your mind. You can feel the rhythm when you read. Just vivid and beautiful. A must read for jazz lovers.Published on May 3 1998
Dyer has the rare ability to make the reader feel like he is participating in these lives while simulataneously observing them. Read morePublished on April 1 1998
THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ FOR ANYONE WHO LOVES JAZZ. THE ARTHOR PUTS YOU INTO THE LIVING EXISTENCE OF THE MUSICIANS LIVES AS NO OTHER BOOK HAS. Read morePublished on Nov. 15 1997 by email@example.com