Saturday, February 06, 2016

Book: Slumberland by Paul Beatty (Bloomsbury USA, 2009)

Just before the end of communism, Ferguson W. Sowell also known as DJ Darky has done the impossible: he has concocted the perfect beat. Or, it would be perfect, but it needs just one last thing, a few new notes from the legendary and currently missing avant-garde jazz saxophonist Charles Stone or as the DJ's know him, The Schwa. Powell has fallen on hard times, he won't sell the nearly perfect beat, instead scraping through by scoring pornographic films. One day a mysterious videocassette arrives from East Berlin, a film of man-on-chicken carnality, but beyond that is the music scoring it. Tones of saxophone that shouldn't exist in nature, that seem to stop time and curl space upon itself, and it could only be made by the Shwa. Armed with the "chicken fucking tape" he gets himself hired at the Slumberland bar in Berlin, the return address on the cassette's envelope. He's hired as a Jukebox Sommelier, using everything from old school rhythm and blues to bebop, disco and beyond to transform the bar and its patrons as the Berlin Wall crumbles and the world is irrevocably changed. It is through this backdrop of nonstop music, hedonism, and the strangeness of being a black man in Germany, he finds the Shwa, and then music itself is irrevocably changed. This was a great novel, alternately hysterically funny and deeply poignant, Beatty's characters are very memorable and his story within a story, the question of the black man becoming passé in the post-modern world is fascinating and thoughtful with Stone and Sowell seeing the world through the lenses of different generations and perspectives. This is definitely a must read for music fans and readers who appreciate thoughtful humor and satire. Slumberland: A Novel -

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