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Joplin's Ghost: A Novel Paperback – September 19, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743449045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743449045
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The rumor of a ghost at the Scott Joplin House in St. Louis, Mo., inspired this contemplative supernatural novel, in which a young girl becomes haunted by the specter of the famous ragtime composer. Phoenix Smalls is just 10 when a falling piano nearly kills her; some weeks later, she sleepwalks to its bench and plays Joplin's "Weeping Willow," a song well beyond her abilities. With crisp, evocative prose, Due (The Living Blood) juxtaposes Joplin's unhappy life and musical fame in the late 19th century against the struggles of Phoenix, the biracial child of activist, creative parents, in the present day, as, at 24, she tries to make it as an R&B singer. Considering that Joplin's musical career was thwarted by racism, personal loss and illness (he suffered an agonizing death from syphilis), Due has rich material to stir up readers' empathy for the relationship between the ghost and his chosen channel. But the story is also a vehicle for Due's admirable illustration of the musician's dilemma: how to be true to a gift in the face of pressure to create what will sell. Authors face such dilemmas as well; fortunately, Due shows herself true to her own powerful gift. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Due shows herself true to her own powerful gift." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[M]ore than just a ghost story is Due's sense of musical and cultural history.... Even while she brings to life Scott Joplin the man, Due makes us appreciate Scott Joplin the icon, the symbol. This understanding gives Joplin's Ghost its haunting power." -- The Washington Post

"In this ambitious and action-packed novel, Tananarive Due blurs genre boundaries as adroitly as her ghost walks through walls. Part love story, part ghost story, part historical fiction, part contemporary adult drama, this book is difficult to categorize -- and impossible to put down." -- Valerie Boyd, author of Wrapped in Rainbows:The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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A lot of Joplin's music has been lost, especially his opera "Guest of Honor."
Armchair Interviews
In fact, most of the book felt like the author was just writing by the seat of her pants-which is fine if you write that way-but it shouldn't seem that's the case.
This is a wonderful ghost story with a great amount of historical research woven it.
V. Love

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on October 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
No one will know me until fifty years after I'm dead," Scott said. ~ Excerpt from Joplin's Ghost

Tananarive Due's latest release, Joplin's Ghost, exemplifies the restless and wandering spirit of musical genius Scott Joplin. The title says it all; however, this is more than just your typical ghost story. Due combines speculative and historical fiction with a splash of romance and urban drama to produce a great story - period. Joplin's Ghost centers on a young, eclectic, emerging Rhythm & Blues female musician, Phoenix Smalls, managed by an overprotective father and a flashy, high-profile, mega-record producer boyfriend. As a child, Phoenix suffered through an eerie accident involving a piano which led to months of agonizing rehabilitation. Shortly thereafter, a foreboding sleepwalking episode finds a ten-year-old Phoenix playing highly complex ragtime scores - years beyond her training. Nearly a decade later, as her star begins to shine, she somehow channels Joplin's ghost and composes what appears to be scores from his lost opera, A Guest of Honor, inspired by Booker T. Washington's visit to the White House. Phoenix avidly researches Joplin's life and discovers many uncanny parallels to her own, including a belief that she may be the reincarnation of his wife, Freddy.

The Ghost is relentless; the possessions rise in intensity to the point of near-death experiences. It is during her dreams that Phoenix is transported to Joplin's world, late 19th century Missouri. Here Phoenix learns that Joplin was hailed the "Ragtime King," and at one time celebrated as one of the most sophisticated and tasteful ragtime composers of the era, having unprecedented success with "Maple Leaf Rag" in 1899, and "The Entertainer" in 1902. He passionately pursued his great aspirations.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Angela Brown on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Tananarive Due and her husband, Stephen Barnes from the very beginning of their writing careers. In Ms. Due's current book, JOPLIN'S GHOST, she does another masterful job of making the supernatural seem plausible and leaves readers wondering if those bumps in the night are really "just" their imagination.

Phoenix is an incredible character. She is strong yet vulnerable and through her eyes, we get to see Scott Joplin in all of his perfections and his flaws. Scott Joplin dies of syphillus and the way Ms. Due weaves in reality with "unreality" one is left in the uncomfortable position of trying to figure out what reality truly is.

There is a line where Mr. Joplin asks Freddie/Phoenix is she really there and if he is mad. She tells him yes he is mad and yes she is there. To me, that line challenges the age-old question of what is real and what isn't. Is reality what exists in each individuals mind or is it something that must be shared collectively.

I'm not sure if those answers are given, or even if they need to be, but I will say this book is one of my favorites of Ms. Dues. Her writing only gets better and better with time.
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Format: Hardcover
Nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for The Between, and recipient of the 2002 American Book Award for another horror novel, The Living Blood, Tananarive Due is an accomplished juggler of the real and supernatural, able to weave a spell which makes readers willingly suspend their disbelief. Here Due adds historical elements to the supernatural, telling the tale of a young R&B singer, who finds herself irrevocably tied to rag-time composer/pianist Joplin and his ghost.

Seriously injured by Joplin's ancient piano, which mysteriously fell on her when she was ten, Phoenix Small, at twenty, is on the verge of a major music career when she suddenly starts seeing and hearing Joplin's ghost--a man in her apartment, a voice calling to her, and Joplin's music appearing in her own computer music program. She gives piano concerts of Joplin's lost music while asleep and believes that "Joplin was the only person who could teach her what she needed to know."

Due gracefully alternates Joplin's sad, turn-of-the-century biography with Phoenix's present music world, a time of gangsta rap and rock, showing the efforts of black musicians in both periods to give voice to the black experience. Due is particularly sensitive in evoking the life of Joplin, beginning the novel with a wrenching account of his final days as a crippled and mentally disturbed syphilitic at Bellevue. Her ability to pack her descriptions with lively sense impressions brings the music world alive in both periods, and the characters, even the minor ones, live and breathe, adding to the the supernatural suspense. Love stories for both Joplin and Phoenix, unabashedly sexual, reveal their passion for life and the ability of love to color their music.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Darryl M. on October 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With JOPLIN'S GHOST, Tananarive Due breaks new literary ground by fusing elements of her historical novel (THE BLACK ROSE) with her many superb supernatural thrillers (MY SOUL TO KEEP, LIVING BLOOD, GOOD HOUSE, etc.).

The effect is at once marvelously jarring, and thrill-ride exciting, giving the reader multi-dimensional characters they will honestly care about, plus a deftly paced plot, and otherworldly adventures; all woven into an excellent tale they won't be able to put down.

In JOPIN'S GHOST, an up-and-coming female R&B dance-diva, Phoenix, has an unexpected encounter with the ghost of Scott Joplin, which leads to a full-on, all-out haunting. Whether being scared out of her wits by creepy telekinetically-moving objects, or channeling Joplin's lost musical scores, or enjoying the "special touch" of the apparition, Phoenix is drawn in more and more, all but a prisoner to the macabre manipulations of her ghost. Those who love Phoenix are in a race against time to break her free from this eerie svengali, before he finally pulls Phoenix over to The Other Side, together forever with him in the hereafter.

Also, the novel presents an intriguing peek into the struggles of black musicians, both modern-day and past, and presents the dilemma all artists face: how to merge commercialism and art without risking artistic integrity. Interesting family dynamics are portrayed as well, which play nicely into the book from beginning to end.

Ms. Due wisely chose to avoid the clichés of hardcore slasher horror and opted instead for a character-driven literary ghost tale that paints vivid cinematic pictures (as only she can do), and gives the reader flesh-and-blood folks they will be musing about for many nights to come. Thought-provoking + Page-turner = Definitely recommended.
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