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Love, and all that jazz Paperback – Jun 1 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Porcupine's Quill; First edition (June 1 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0889843619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0889843615
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2 x 22.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #596,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

Laurie Lewis picks up on her fascinating life with her second memoir, Love, and all that jazz (The Porcupine's Quill). Married and living in the midst of New York City's 1950s jazz scene, Laurie meets Gary, the embodiment of New York cool, and with whom a relationship develops that will start a journey through divorce, remarriage, motherhood, a return to Canada and into publishing. It is a memoir of a marriage, but it is ultimately a story of independence.

(Open Book Ontario)

`...this one is not a dirge. It is not a hard-luck story. If it could be sung, it would be a jazz tune, hard bop, a perfect tune for Shout Sister!

`Good. Gutsy. Real.'

(Merilyn Simonds Kingston Whig-Standard)

`... to describe the essence of Laurie's book, we need some adjectives--gripping, poignant, excruciatingly honest, heart-inspiring, heart-breaking, and courageous come to mind. We'd need to honor the colors and the moods of an era captured with Laurie's brush strokes ... In fact, her brushstrokes are breathtaking. Laurie Lewis carries the reader, as though on tangible breezes blowing into New York City apartments through small windows 60 years ago, into the heart of an era on the brink of something big--the compliance of the 1950s inundated by cultural groundswells and eddies of hipness and coolness. Oh, how she describes the anguish and drug culture for many of New York City's Jazz musicians ...'

(Lise Goddard)

Amid the chaos of drugs and jazz, Lewis finds insight into the way we recall the past.

"How hard to write about this, to sort out the memories. To make decisions about how much honesty, where, and when. I see things now so differently. And all I can say is the truth as it will come into my memory." This passage from Laurie Lewis's new book, Love, and All That Jazz, explains the core difficulty of writing a memoir: the mind is selective and subjective with memory, and those attributes change with life experience. Whether the memoirist has made peace with the past or not, there must be clarity in the narrative as to what she wishes to convey to the reader. Lewis's first memoir, Little Comrades, achieved this beautifully. Love, and All That Jazz, her follow-up, mines her years in New York City, through two marriages, co-dependency, becoming a mother, separation, her career in publishing, and her eventual move back to Canada.

As in the first memoir, Lewis, amid a chaotic atmosphere filled with interesting characters and intellectual stimulation, remains ambitious and enterprising, if a bit impulsive. After falling in love with her friend's husband, Gary, who lives above her and her husband in an apartment building, she and Gary divorce their spouses and move into an apartment together. Gary is tall, good-looking, and has a good job as a Pepsi-Cola advertising executive. But his real love is jazz, and they spend their nights listening to music, going to jazz clubs, and hanging out with other musicians. They spend time with Miles Davis, Lenny Bruce, Thelonious Monk, and others, all whom Gary seems to know well. While they are living this charmed bohemian life, they have a daughter, Amanda, and Gary slips into alcoholism and amphetamine addiction and forays into heroin. Much of the memoir focuses on Gary's addictions throughout their tumultuous marriage.

Lewis chooses to insert excerpts from Gary's letters and his own recollections of certain events. Although an interesting device that does provide contrast, Gary's voice is uneven, at times drug fueled and incomprehensible, which disrupts Lewis's fluidity. Lewis's perspective on these events in her life seems unresolved, which weakens the perspective and the narrative. Even though Gary and Lewis separate for nearly two decades, there is not much focus on Lewis's concern for Amanda's well-being or much personal reflection on what motivates her to stay married to Gary. This ambivalence makes it difficult for the reader to empathize with her journey toward freedom.

Memoirs are versions of our own truths, but we must be sure of what we believe our own truths to be. When Lewis recounts her personal dramas, she shows us that time does not always give us clarity and resolution. But Lewis is a person who has lived a fascinating life, and it's enjoyable to read her accounts of her relationships with famous musicians and the inhabitants of the publishing world.

(Monica Carter Foreword Reviews)

Review

‘You can look at this story several ways. In one way it is about a marriage between a husband who is a drug addict and a wife whose addiction is the love of her husband. I, however, prefer not to judge or analyze any of the behavior, but to let all labels fall by the wayside and look at the book as a real love story. It is about a woman who despite all the awful and unloving things her husband did, she never, over decades, gave up on him. They were always the love of one another's life. That is a rare find these days. The writing is subtle and understated, yet the author manages to pack in an enormous amount of feeling.’

(Catherine Gildiner, author of Too Close to the Falls)

‘Laurie Lewis writes with sophistication and simplicity about her precarious and abundant life. By the end of her vivid account, the sadness that flows from her innocence and experience is oddly beautiful.’

(Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights on Air and Alone in the Classroom)

‘Laurie Lewis's follow-up memoir deftly exposes the pill-popping, booze-swilling underbelly of Madmen-era New York and celebrates the determination of a young single mother to make a life for herself and her child.’

(Sheree-Lee Olson, author of Sailor Girl)

‘Love, lovers, jazz and dope, the wild gaiety, glamour and danger of New York's 1950s bohemia – Love, and all that jazz is an amazing tale of a gutsy and gorgeous Canadian prairie girl with resilience born of a childhood in a Communist family constantly on the run. She was an independent woman when the phrase was still an oxymoron. Laurie Lewis tells her intimate story with wit, panache and touching honesty.’

(Michele Landsberg, feminist author of Writing the Revolution, activist and former Toronto Star columnist)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Laurie Lewis’s follow-up to her exquisite first book, Little Comrades, is a memoir... and more. It is an evocation, but an unsentimental one, of the nature and mystery of love, and the enduring hold it can exert on our lives. It chronicles her relationship with her second husband, Gary Lewis: jazzman, adman, but also addict, whom she had to abandon to his fate when she migrated from New York to Toronto with her young daughter to make an independent life for herself. And yet, despite a long separation, this was a bond that could somehow not dissolve, and the book ends with a sense of redemption, and the couple’s reuniting... before a final dying fall. Like a good wine, it is a book that lingers on the palate, leaving one with much to ponder.
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Laurie Lewis does not shirk from writing about difficult things, yet doesn't pretend that it's easy to write about or remember a painful past, or that there are easy answers for things. I found this one of the most refreshing and satisfying aspects of this remarkable book. Love is never simple and straightforward; to love an addict is heartbreaking. The particular addict at the centre of this book, Gary Lewis, was a charming, talented guy who recognized another wounded individual in Laurie, and they found great happiness and safety in one another's company...for a while. The world in which this all took place is a fascinating one, too, peopled by the artistic scene of late 50s New York City, and later, the 60s and 70s in Toronto.

I was absorbed by Laurie's exploration of the difficult life a single working mother faced in the 60s, and impressed by her ability to navigate so superbly through financial and logistical hardships with great style. The description of her years in Toronto helping draft dodgers, raising a young daughter, excelling in a career in book design and still finding some peaceful time to dream is a great example. She manages to write these stories of her life with some humour, too, but overall this memoir is written in an immediate, searingly honest voice without artifice, but with intelligence and charm and an overarching sense of true and abiding love: Laurie's love for her daughter Amanda, and over all the years, for Gary, too.

I highly recommend this book, but advise the reader not to expect a love story in any conventional sense. It's just another kind of love, and all that jazz.
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This is the most poignant and truthful love story I have ever read. Laurie Lewis tells us, through her characteristic chatty, humourous and self-aware writing, of her life in New York in the 1950's and 60's (though the book spans over 50 years in total, leading up to the present day). Her all consuming love affair with the ad-man/jazz-man Gary Lewis, "it was both more, and less, than love", her painful escape from the drug fueled haze of his life, her ferocious journey into motherhood. And through it all, a fascinating history of the jazz scene in New York, the figures in and out of their apartment (Miles Davis, Steve McQueen...).
This is an engaging and inspiring memoir. Highly addictive reading!
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Laurie Lewis has once again proved that she writes beautifully and has a remarkable ability to dredge details from memory to create vivid pictures of her experience and the times in which she has lived. The book has a complex structure, with a second person (her late husband Gary) interjecting his view and adding depth to the bitter-sweet story of a troubled relationship. In the course of the book Lewis describes two very different worlds at the middle of the last century: the jazz and drugs of New York and the placid WASP society of Toronto, how she was compelled to flee one, found security in the other, and was eventually reunited with Gary. This is a personal narrative of courage and survival.
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Verified Purchase
As was demonstrated in her childhood/adolescent memoir 'Little Comrades', there is no question that Laurie Lewis is a very capable writer. On that basis I was looking forward to reading 'Love, & All That Jazz'. But unfortunately the book, which is really a Part II memoir, is a rather pathetic love story that at times turned into a chore to read. All the way through I kept asking myself: 'When is she going to permanently cut bait with this drug addicted/alcoholic husband of hers who can't seem to stay straight no matter how many times he goes through detox?'

Near the end of the book, after both his parents die, she even brings him to Canada from The States to live with her. To his credit he completes a Phd in political science at U of T, but is unable to find suitable employment, let alone any employment at all. They move to Kingston with her mother and he falls off the wagon again. In the end he does manage to complete a successfully published book on the history of a high school he attended while living in California. But shortly after that he has to be admitted to a nursing home with a form of dementia attributable to years of on-and-off addictions.

The only redeeming parts of the book have to do with her daughter Amanda who somehow survived it all and has three children of her own. As for the 'Jazz' part of it, it consists of a lot of name dropping and some photos.

Stick with 'Little Comrades'. It's a 5 star read.
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