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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voices Calling Out To Me From Fog
I am a writer, a poet, a singer and musician. I first read "Coming Through Slaughter" seven years ago, and it has haunted me since. I have read many, many books but none have stayed with me like this one. Ondaatje shows us how it is possible to weave a narrative with pieces of song, faded photographs, snatches of conversation. This is the way Buddy Bolden should...
Published on May 6, 1997

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48 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiction, not Fact
A good novel. This is not, however the true story of Buddy Bolden. I say this not as a critisism of talented writer Mr. Ondaatje, but rather of the dozens of people on-line who I have seen recomend this book to people for learing about Buddy Bolden. If you want to know the facts about the real life person named Buddy Bolden, read Donald Marquis' book "In...
Published on March 25, 2000


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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voices Calling Out To Me From Fog, May 6, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
I am a writer, a poet, a singer and musician. I first read "Coming Through Slaughter" seven years ago, and it has haunted me since. I have read many, many books but none have stayed with me like this one. Ondaatje shows us how it is possible to weave a narrative with pieces of song, faded photographs, snatches of conversation. This is the way Buddy Bolden should be remembered, felt as a phantom stretching through history. Ondaatje conveys New Orleans, and its rightful place in time as the birthplace of jazz, precisely. I've passed this book on to many others and am secretly gleeful that The English Patient has gathered all the attention, because Coming Through Slaughter deserves much more careful consideration, is not for the masses but for lovers of poetry, music, and history
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48 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiction, not Fact, March 25, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
A good novel. This is not, however the true story of Buddy Bolden. I say this not as a critisism of talented writer Mr. Ondaatje, but rather of the dozens of people on-line who I have seen recomend this book to people for learing about Buddy Bolden. If you want to know the facts about the real life person named Buddy Bolden, read Donald Marquis' book "In Search Of Buddy Bolden". Mr.Ondaatje's novel is a work of fiction which uses the name of Buddy Bolden and a few events of his life, while deliberately ignoring others for dramatic effect (eg, the real Buddy Bolden wasn't a barber)in a setting and story which is mostly the product of Michael Ondaatje's creativity.
I wish I didn't have to say this. I appologize to those who already are clear on the difference between fact and fiction. I am simply exasperated after 5 years of people wrongly recomending this book to people interested in early jazz as information about Buddy Bolden.
For entertaining fiction, read a Michael Ondaatje novel. For the facts about Bolden, read Donald Marquis' book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Story of Decay, July 2, 2002
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This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
Michael Ondaatje wrote this semi-biographical story of legendary jazz musician Buddy Bolden long before writing "The English Patient" and "Anil's Ghost". Ondaatje only writes two novels per decade, so it is both interesting and relatively easy to track his progress as an author. "Coming Through Slaughter" draws heavily on Ondaatje's poetic roots, as rhythmic sections of smooth unself-conscious dialogue alternate with straight narrative and passages of syncopated poetry. It is far shorter and contains more poetry than his later works -and this works well in a book about jazz. In this, it is less mature than "The English Patient", more rooted in a young man's poetic freeform and less in the disciplined construction of a novel. Perspectives shift from Bolden to his New Orleans friends, prostitutes, and the musicians around him who literally created jazz. Ondaatje has a unique style of piecing a novel together from disparate pieces like a jigsaw puzzle, pieces that don't always meet at the edges -at least until the whole is complete and the details slowly merge into a profound and intricate mosaic. This style, in its early stages, is on display here. Characters and themes emerge slowly. Ondaatje is a challenging author. You may be two pages into a scene and still not know quite who is talking, or about what, or when. But finally the rush of understanding as the scene fits logically into another that comes pages later.
Buddy Bolden, New Orleans cornet player, early jazz genius who dropped out of sight for two years and then made a triumphant if short-lived return, before dying in an asylum. This is the source. The facts about Bolden remain murky, and Ondaatje has created a life around him. It is a story as much about jazz, New Orleans, and decay as it is about the sad life of a single horn player.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more art than book (which is a good thing), September 18, 2011
First, it should be understood that this story is BASED on what is known about Buddy Bolden and his music, but much of the narrative is invented. Anyone wanting to know what really happened to Bolden should look elsewhere, as this book is basically a patchwork quilt of suppositions and exaggerations. However, that said, the writing itself is incredible, an unforgettable experience. Ondaatje attempts to penetrate the mystery of Bolden (the man and the myth) by employing prose paragaphs that are as straight and severe as cut wrists ... There is nothing extemporaneous here, nothing that doesn't tie directly into the theme, and nothing that will not be remembered long after the final page is finished. It's prose/poetry saturated with powerful, often disturbing imagery that explores questions like, what does the topography of a true artist's heart look like? and, do not the essential loves, passions, fears, and sicknesses we feel connect us all, whether we are blue-collar workers toiling in oblivion or modern-day Beethovens reinventing entire genres? As far as Bolden goes, the book ostensibly attempts to tell the reader he may have lost his mind because he transcended his bodily form through music, and his mind disintergated in the attempt ... But it is much more than this, and it is about much more than Buddy Bolden.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Listening for Lost Notes, June 8, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
Michael Ondaatje writes yet another stunningly original little book--in this case, a fictionalized meditation on Buddy Bolden, an unrecorded father of Jazz. Bolden remains throughout a tantalizingly ungraspable phantom, the central mysteries of his life, his art, and his madness remaining felt but never quite pinned down. Ondaatje's prose is at times startlingly lyrical, and as he chases Bolden through documents and scenes, the novel partakes of the very best sort of modern detective novel--one where the enigma is never resolved, but allowed to manifest in its fullness. More 'experimental' in form than either The English Patient, or In the Skin of a Lion, it's as good a read as either
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chasing the rabbit, July 24, 2010
This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
Better than any other writing I've ever seen, this book exposes the significance of one-off, non-reproducible performance as one of the inputs to the creation of jazz around 1900. The "strictly ear band".."used to kill".."the real reading band." The book's subject, Buddy Bolden, is given a core "fear of certainties," which is a marvelous expression of one of the delights of jazz. Stylistically the book is written in an analogous free form. The book is literature, as jazz is music, but the grammatical structure changes as often as the author sees fit. And no question, this book is beautifully written.
But even beyond jazz, Ondaatje has an almost throw-away passage about human compulsion, contrasted to motivation. It's memorable. At one point, Bolden has fled from his jazz life. He disappears, and finds an acceptable certainty in the love of a woman. But his friend tracks him down, and explains to him that he must return to jazz. His friend "was releasing the rabbit he had to run after, because the cage was open now and there would always be the worthless taste of the worthless rabbit when he finished." No doubt the origin of such compulsion to perform lies in the evolutionary selection of homo sapiens, but, from a romantic perspective that one sentence conveys completely the glory and doom of the human race.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable Tragedy, March 19, 2014
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I'm watching treme' and know of Steve Earle's affinity for this book so decided to give it a go. It's told wonderfully and I'll need to re-read for the nuances, but I very much enjoyed it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done, July 23, 2014
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This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
The prose flows and bubbles mirroring the syncopated rhythms of very early "jass". It is a thoughtfully told story of the convergence of mental illness and genius in Jazz legend Buddy Bolden. Some of the story is a sheer fabrication but it does not matter that he was not really a barber. His legacy lives through the music even though he never recorded any.It is a fitting remembrance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written like poetry, June 16, 2014
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This review is from: Coming Through Slaughter (Paperback)
Beautifully written like poetry as only This writer can do. A painful life story set within the lights of this authors tremendous talent.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Coming through Slaughter, April 9, 2014
By 
Steven Davis (Rowlett, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Coming Through Slaughter is the imagined life story of the early jazz musician, Charles "Buddy" Bolden. Bolden was born around 1876 in New Orleans. He played they coronet, led his own band, and developed a musical style that blended ragtime and gospel music into an early form of improvisational jazz. In 1907 Bolden went insane from alcohol poisoning and was institutionalized for the rest of his life.

Ondaatje's unorthodox novel presents Bolden's story from several perspectives, with short blocks of text alternating narrators, occasionally in first person, and occasionally with documentary interjections. Near the end of the novel the author summarizes what little is actually known about Bolden's life and career, revealing that much of what we have read is Ondaatje's invention.

The Bolden of the novel is eccentric, erratic, usually drunk and occasionally violent. But he is also sensitive and compassionate, especially with women. Most of the women in Bolden's life are prostitutes, and they are part of a vivid picture the author provides of turn-of-the-century New Orleans.

Coming Through Slaughter would probably appeal most to those interested in jazz pioneers. Not having any background in that musical genre, I was interested chiefly in the place and time, but found the narrative too fragmented to develop much interest in Bolden or the other characters.
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Coming Through Slaughter
Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje (Paperback - March 19, 1996)
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