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Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A novel Hardcover – April 25, 2000

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Stanley Crouch is one of the great provocateurs in American letters, which has led Salon to call him "the bull in the black-intelligentsia China shop." Infamous for his controversial views on race, he loves to treat iconic figures such as Toni Morrison and Spike Lee as critical pincushions. However, he has built his career primarily as a reviewer and essayist. Don't the Moon Look Lonesome, then, represents his first attempt at fiction.

Crouch's novel tells the story of a mixed-race couple, both musicians, living in New York City. Maxwell is a black sax player; Carla is a white jazz singer. Their love for each other seems to transcend race--yet the great American dilemma keeps interfering, and as they try to gain acceptance from friends and family, jazz is the one thing that soothes them. In a typical altercation, a black man in a parking lot derides Carla as a "stringy-haired white girl." But as she listens to Maxwell perform immediately afterward, the very notes he plays seem like the best possible rebuttal, "more masculine and more tender and more androgynous and more than male or female or happy or sad or frightened or brave or knowing or befuddled than anything she had ever heard her man play."

Don't the Moon Look Lonesome is an awkwardly written novel, and a slow-moving one at that. Long passages are devoted to descriptions of the music Carla and Maxwell create, and while Crouch has inherited Albert Murray's mantle as one of our most lively jazz critics, his own voice merges with those of his characters in an odd and distracting way. They end up sharing both the author's appetite for provocation and his wordiness, which undermines the greatest mystery of music in the first place--its wordlessness. Crouch also has a propensity for bizarre metaphors attributed to inner states, a prime example being this thorny item: "the sudden spread of this interior cactus." Finally, female readers should be warned: one of Carla's major strengths is that despite her white skin, she has a black ass. Perhaps that's progress. And perhaps Crouch's editors were so intimidated by his reputation that they neglected to tell him when he was playing out of tune. --Emily White

From Library Journal

Jazz critic and essayist Crouch's first novel is a stylish love story told against the backdrop of the New York jazz scene. Carla, a white singer from South Dakota, and Maxwell, a black saxophone player of some renown, have been together for five years, but the pressures of race, art, success, and family threaten their future. As Carla searches through her memories of former loves for ways to break down the barriers between her and Maxwell, she struggles to find her own place in the competitive world of jazz. Crouch is at his best when writing about the music. His descriptions have a flow that makes the reader feel as though he or she is listening to a blues band or a gospel choir. Carla's thoughts have the cadence of an improvisational solo, going in various directions before returning to the original theme. While some of the dialog is talky and the main characters distant, those familiar with Crouch's nonfiction will want to read this novel, if only for its style. Recommended for larger collections.
---Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (April 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375409327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375409325
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,864,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "" on February 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an open minded one, expressing many different viewpoints from many different people, hammering home the idea that the invidual and his/her freedom to make decisions should be the goal and landmark of America... It is also clear to me that Crouch has an amazing scope of knowledge, from music to literature to culture. The book is full of racial stereotypes coming from the mouths of the characters. But for every one of these characters, there exists an open minded, analytical thinker to counterbalance them. These conversations are the highlight of the book in my mind. The other highlight is Crouch's attempt to dissect jazz and other musical forms on paper, to try and recreate the actual song being played on to paper, giving us a reason for each note, stanza, etc. The big problem in this book, in my opinion, was that it seemed that Crouch was trying too hard in some instances to create the perfect sentence, leading to excess and cluttered verbeage. Some passages flowed beautifully, others dragged very slowly. As a result, the book seemed choppy and discongruent. I've always liked Stanley Crouch. He's bold, unafraid to speak his mind, intelligent, and witty. These characteristics come out in his first novel, a book about an interracial relationship between two musicians, their biographical histories, and their difficulties they encounter trying to hold their relationship together.. I've seen Crouch many times on TV, and although I don't always agree with him, I've always wanted to go have beers with him..
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William Russo on July 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved Stanley Crouch's book. It presents black characters in ways that are rarely presented in fiction, as people who talk about life with wit and humor on a very civilized level. They talk about justice and the purpose of existence. They talk about literature (Shakespeare), about classical music (Wagner), about painting (Leonardo and Picasso). And when they discuss jazz - as is to be expected in a book about a black jazz saxophone soloist and a white woman from Idaho who becomes a serious jazz singer - they talk not only about the feeling of jazz but about its content and the ideas that underlie it. Another strikingly original aspect of this book is that Crouch represents religion in our society as a powerful and stabilizing force (his description of a black church service in Houston is compelling and masterly). Is Crouch discursive?  Of course he is, but so was Shaw, and how about Homer?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I don't think that I have ever read a more astonishing inward realization of a woman's life and memory and desire and feeling. As a Shakespeare scholar and a teacher of that great, great master for 30 years, I can confidently say that this novel is truly Shakespearean in its uncanny sense of capturing, without ego or intrusion, the soul and the idiom of a character. Each character is pure and unique and possessed of a distinct language. As a woman born and raised in the Midwest, I was equally startled by how accurately Stanley Crouch captured the style, the feeling, the speech, and the thinking of those particular Americans, among the many, many others he so powerfully and sensitively presents to us. This is a courageous book and it request that we be courageous readers willing to experience the great beauties and the enormous hurts the main character has to live through and witness as she is taught the many, many ways that race and sex and class touch and turn us in the world we inhabit right now. The insights into how men and women relate across the lines of color and class are unexceeded by any writing of which I am aware. These are the human things that people talk about privately when the subject of race comes around but that no one has written of until now, especially, on one level, the psychological and emotional intricacies that come into play when black and white women must truly face each other, setting aside all of the assigned roles and opening up to each other. Who would have thought a man would ever get something like that right? But this is an epic in the classical sense. It is a novel brimming over with ideas that are equaled by the panorama of emotion delivered by all of these three-dimensional characters who arrive from so many parts of our society.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Case Quarter VINE VOICE on February 10, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
with the pages as his bandstand, crouch is a jazz musician, and his gig is personal and territorial identity. crouch blows a charlie parker kind of story of reversal of a white woman who could be said to be acting black, a switch from the familiar accusation of blacks acting white. carla hamsun has a big boody (boody is crouch's word for what beyonce calls booty), a black woman's boody, and carla sings jazz and carla has a black lover, her third, maxwell davis, tenor saxophone's traditional continuation of ben webster, lester young, john coltrane and sonny rollins, and carla can cook collards and chitlins. all to the good for her man, max, until carla, former ice queen from south dakota, sniffs something funky with their relationship: max is distancing himself from their five year duet after hearing the big band screaming a sound of: hi de hi de ho, what you doing with that white girl? come on back home to your own. and so they both journey. like homer's ulysses, carla travels down the rivers of memory and on a trip to houston with max to visit his parents and on a night singing and hanging out with friends, the end of the evening endured by this white woman listening to black intellectuals spew more self race hating vitriol than the entire gangsta rap industry, concluding with her being by her lonesome, like homer's penelope, waiting for her ulysses to come home from an overseas gig. but this is carla's story with the colors of the national spectrum, new york city and south dakota and houston, with a side trip to connecticut, seen through carla's eyes and insides, and max, although her lover man, a co-star with less face time.Read more ›
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