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Jazz Paperback – June 8, 2004


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More from Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison is considered one of America's finest novelists for her profound and provocative works of fiction. Visit Amazon's Toni Morrison Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400076218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076215
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jazz embraces the vibrant music and lifestyle of 1920s Harlem, an urban renaissance of opportunity and glamour. A novel of murder, hard lives, and broken dreams, Jazz sways with a lyric medley of voices and human consciousness.

Narrated by the author, Toni Morrison, this is an intense but gratifying three hours of tape. Background jazz music enhances the feel of '20s Harlem, a city that attracted thousands of black southerners hoping for better lives. Joe Trace and his wife Violet were part of this migration; madly in love with each other and the idea of this urban mecca, they "traindanced into the city." But like so many of the marriages in Morrison's novels, this union crumbles, and the dreams for a better life fade away. Joe finds another, a love "that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going."

In Jazz, time ebbs and flows like human memory, traversing between recollections of the past and expectations for the future; likewise, jazz music is often wild and chaotic. Here Morrison once again exemplifies herself as both a superb writer and a masterful storyteller. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Morrison's authoritative novel--a BOMC main selection and a 17-week PW bestseller in cloth--tells the story of three intersecting tragic lives, and adroitly uses the motif of jazz to make palpable the feel and excitement of Harlem in the 1920s.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I lost myself several times in the unmatchable prose and style of Ms. Morrison.
Theresa McCormick
In this book, jazz is represented both as a symbol of freedom and as a source of base impulses that can lead people astray.
Donald Mitchell
For a person that enjoys a fast-paced plot, this may not be a favorite, but its style is a redeeming factor.
Ape Drape

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Earl Hazell on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a child of fine artists and a classical and jazz musician, I had no idea or understanding as to why many of the churches- from the turn of the century to almost the present day in many areas- consistently referred to jazz as the devil's music, or dangerously secular, until after reading this book. Toni Morrison becomes the metaphor herself, along with her invented characters, as a story of love and passion, anger and rage, sorrow and grief, hunger and lonliness, acknowledgement, and quiet, earhty epiphany unfolds as uncontrollably as the tides,with all the simple complexity of a jazz riff- and with as much freedom from judgement. Toni Morrison's descriptive powers sweeping across the landscape of history and the landscape of the individual character's lives is frightening in its ability to overwhelm. She brings out the raw, triumphant humaness of each character with such lyricism and painful joy. The novel can at times feel like a giant denoument, yet its slowly building climaxes are what make it more than readable; they make it exciting, sublimely predictable and unpredictable simultameuosly. It almost makes one understand better why the story of Christ is called a "Passion"; passion, as exemplified in this novel, is not just a sexy or damaging thing, but also the way to come to know God.
There are small pars of the novel that are a bit too detailed in the rendering of lesser character's lives. Yet her rendering of the time period- Harlem in the 20's, and the community is incredible. This is more, or different, than a novel. It is an epic poem- an epic jazz poem that has you hearing the music as it mildly, painfully, poignantly and triumphantly ends. Toni will not let you down with this one.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ape Drape on March 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Toni Morrison's Jazz is a book premised around love, race, violence and the city that is home to these ideas. Set in the 1920's, Jazz is a story about a married couple's struggles, and the entangled lives of those involved in their love. Stylistically this is a beautiful book, written almost poetically. However, this book may not be a cup of tea for a reader that enjoys a plot driven novel. Nor is it recommendable for someone unwilling to adamantly hunt for significance.

After reading the first page, the reader is familiarized with the basics of the plot within the novel. The basic tale, which takes place in Harlem, begins with an aging man named Joe, who is unhappy in his marriage. He ends up looking for love outside of his home and finds it in the 18 year old, Dorcas. Their involvement lasts several months but ends after Dorcas, desiring a younger companion, breaks up with Joe. Unable to let go, Joe murders his youthful former-mistress. When his wife, Violet, finds out that he has had an affair, she makes an appearance at Dorcas' open-casket funeral and mutilates the corpse. For months Joe mopes about his loss, but Violet goes outward with her emotions. She ends up speaking to and bonding with the aunt of the deceased. As time progresses, Violet and Joe work to reconstruct their marriage. The story occurs over several months, but most of this information is exposed within the first several pages. The early exposition of the plot shows that it is not the most important piece of this work's puzzle. More important is the unique way that the plot develops.

Different aspects of the tale develop as different narrators offer new details of the events.
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Format: Library Binding
For many African-Americans, the period from 1860 through 1930 was a particularly challenging one. The formal slavery of the South transitioned into a vulnerable rural economic existence, dependent on the weather and the price of crops. The promise of the city lured many to leave their homes, and adopt city life-styles that put new social pressures on them and their relationships. Jazz tells this story through the microcosm of one marriage, that of Joe and Violet Trace.
Unlike many books about marriage, this one is a love story. Although it bears no relationship to any romance novel you have ever read, it reveals the way that the need for love develops from within each of us and allows us to grasp its potential when we respond to the yearnings of those we care about.
Music was important in the lives of many people during those years. Churches and music halls vied for the attention of most people in the cities. Jazz was a new influence, bursting on the scene with a combination of extreme freedom and mutual respect for the other players. In this book, jazz is represented both as a symbol of freedom and as a source of base impulses that can lead people astray. Ms. Morrison also pays homage to jazz by building her narrative around the individual stories of those involved taken in solitary order, much like the solos in a jazz piece. The narratives all weave together, but you have to hear the whole piece to understand how. Be patient with what seem like digressions. They are really transitions into new perspectives, like when a horn does a riff before returning to the theme.
You also get the metaphor of jazz used in the relationship of the two Traces. They were originally in rhythm with each other, then fell out of rhythm, and then regained their ability to improvise together.
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