Jazz Fiction: A History and Comprehensive Reader's Guide

Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith
2010 American Music  
Generally speaking, jazz literature is preoccupied with the connection between music and the written word. Sometimes the connection is so loose that the use of jazz seems commercial in nature-the main concern seems to be appealing to readers; books, short stories, and poetry that use jazz in this superficial way attempt to engage readers through posed or forced coolness and danger. Sometimes such texts go so far as to suggest teamwork among musicians (jazz kinship), or perhaps a sultry sense of
more » ... adventure, or perhaps they even hint at madness. Though many authors momentarily include jazz either in the background or foreground of their works, a small number aspires to making jazz the backbone of their oeuvre, through paying attention to musical structure or sounds of specific words and phrases. In Jazz Fiction: A History and Comprehensive Reader's Guide, David Rife focuses on jazz fiction as a whole, including short stories. He defines jazz fiction as "those stories and novels in which the music figures in the narrative"; however, he clarifies that his study also includes works like Ralph ellison's Invisible Man, which "are obviously imbued with the spirit of the music, even though their discernible jazz content might seem negligible or even nonexistent" (2). In his foreword, guest editor David Cayer stresses that some of the fiction included is "devoid of jazz but which uses 'jazz,' 'swing,' or related terms as a form of bait-and-switch advertising" (ix). He also makes it clear that Rife's intention is not an all-inclusive book about jazz fiction. Rather his intent is to create an annotated reference and bibliographic tool that "should go far to help aficionados of jazz literature identify the real thing-the authentic jazz fiction-and select the works that come closest to meeting their needs" (19). The book is divided into four sections: "From Music to Story"; "Jazz Fiction by Select Categories"; "Jazz Fiction Short Lists"; and "Annotated Bibliography
doi:10.5406/americanmusic.28.1.0129 fatcat:ht72le5nabhhligfbqwpaecc2q