Greetings, readers! My name is Sareeta Domingo, and I’m an author and fiction editor. It’s my great pleasure to be bringing you a special BONUS Book of the Week here on Morning Mari’s We Out Here Festival edition!
Given the festival theme, it seemed only appropriate that my selection for this show should be a book that in its very form embodies a style that is so vital to the evolution of modern music – Jazz, by my favourite author of all time, Toni Morrison.
The book is primarily set in 1920s Harlem, New York, and explores the story of Joe Trace, a middle-aged salesman in a waning marriage to Violet, his steadfast wife. Joe’s love affair with eighteen-year-old, impulsive, flighty beauty Dorcas, leads to tragedy. Joe ends up murdering his lover, and Violet’s mental state unravels. The basics of the story are masterfully revealed in the very first paragraph of the book, but Morrison’s writing style is deliberately non-linear, taking in several characters and their perspectives, leading us in sudden and unexpected narrative directions.
The way story is told deliberately mimics the qualities of a jazz improvisation. As Morrison said of the book, “I was interested in rendering a period in African American life through a specific lens – one that would reflect the content and characteristics of its music (romance, freedom of choice, doom, seduction, anger) and the manner of its expression.”
Morrison herself at times seems to reveal herself as the narrator of the story, while also seeming in thrall to the same kind of higher power that would overtake similarly superlative jazz musicians like John Coltrane or Miles Davis when they let the notes fly on their instruments. But in Toni Morrison’s case, of course, her instrument was her pen and paper. She was a maestro. That is why Jazz by Toni Morrison, is my Bonus Book of the Week.