Category Archives: literary lives

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje: Mini Review

After a recent post that mentioned Monty Sunshine and by implication Ken Colyer, Chris Barber and the Trad Revival Movement of the 40′s and 50′s I’ve been on the look out for books about the New Orleans scene in the early years of the 20th century. I didn’t expect to find much because I almost never buy new books and my regular haunts are charity shops. Anyway I did find this (thank you Barnardos). Coming Through Slaughter takes the sketchiest known ‘facts’ of Buddy Bolden‘s life, marinades in alcohol psychosis, and creates a gumbo portrait of a single-minded mad genius. Whether the hard-lipped Buddy Bolden ever knew what he’d got is debatable but he certainly influenced almost all of the next wave of jazz players. He died in an asylum in 1932 after 20 years of apparent madness. Inspiring and richly drawn; a beautiful book.
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Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Julian Maclaren-Ross by Paul Willetts

As you may have noticed I have been reading this biography of writer, bar-fly and pub-bore J Maclaren-Ross. The dazzle of ‘Fitzrovia‘ in the title I suppose was the draw. I knew nothing about J M-R (or Edward Hyde as he sometimes styled himself) but I do like a bit of mid-century (20th that is) writerly derring-do.

It is rather a personal biography than a literary one, the kind that whets the appetite but leaves one suspecting that the life will always outshine the writing. At times the blur of rent dodging, advance squandering, dun avoidin’ and brandy quaffing caused the eyes to glaze somewhat, but nonetheless a readable and necessary book inking in the outline of a literary life that overlapped and maybe influenced so many others.

And I think that  Mr Willetts  has been sharp to invoke comparisons with the good Dr Hunter S Thompson; both half (or holy) mad with paranoia from booze and amphetamines, both capable of outright hackery, both less dangerous than advertised and both seldom seen without mirror shades or a cigarette holder.

Look out for original editions of his work because they are RARE!

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