Next weeks story is The Half-Skinned Steer by E. Annie Proulx
This week both Anais and Maya fell in love with James Baldwin and Gerald is left with a quandary. I also have to say, Anais did an excellent job on this weeks Audio!
Don’t forget, to rate the story! For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it.
Listeners gave last week’s story “The Start of the Affair” by 3.5 Bradberries.
So tell us, on a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “Sonny’s Blues“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give the final tally on the next episode.
Next week’s story is The Half-Skinned Steer by E. Annie Proulx.
2 comments on Sonny’s Blues – James Baldwin – Literary Roadhouse Ep 28
Great comment as usual. I wonder if the inconsistency if Sonny’s diction paralleled the time shifts in the story. Present-day Sonny felt more experienced and wise than flashback Sonny. Perhaps that was intentional. I’d have to go through the story to make sure this observation is true and not just an invention of my memory.
Fascinating discussion, as usual. And the story was superb. Baldwin’s description of jazz was the best i have ever read. I’ve been listening to jazz for over 40 years, and didn’t think words could capture that essence of the music. But I was wrong.
I think Anais nailed it when she traced the story’s heart back to suffering. Some people deal with suffering via religion (in church, in the parlor, or on the street), some through heroin, some just hold it in and repress their feelings like the narrator. Some find their way through jazz. Baldwin describes how deep, how desperate, how consuming that journey is. The final scene in the club is stunning.
I think the story really is about jazz, not art in general. I can’t imagine Baldwin making the same claims about writing (even though he was a great one) or painting. It is tempting to generalize the description of the music into a broader statement about art, but I think that misses the key element, the shared immediacy of the suffering, the grief, the rage, the pain, and yes, the control and the freedom. "It was very beautiful because it wasn’t hurried and it was no longer a lament. I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting." I love writing and the fine arts, but that burning is something I only find in jazz, real jazz.
I give the story a 5.5. The only thing I didn’t like was some inconsistency in the dialog. Sometimes Sonny sounded like a high school drop out, but most other times his grammar and diction were perfect. Virtually no slang, which seems odd for a jazz musician, especially in the 1950s. Aside from that minor complaint, the story was fantastic. It was a serious story with important things to say about the human condition, and it delivered that message with the impact of a sledgehammer. And it reminded us "that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky." Damn, that’s good writing.