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Coming Through Slaughter Paperback – March 19, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Anybody who cares about good writing ... should get this book and luxuriate in it." — Minneapolis Tribune

"One of the most innovative and liberating writers of our time." — Geoff Dyer, The Observer

"A beautifully detailed story, perhaps the finest jazz novel ever written." — The Sunday Times

"Coming Through Slaughter ... is so stuffed full of the dolour and lust that both buoys and blemishes a life, it reads like a story dying to be told." — Books in Canada

From the Inside Flap

Bringing to life the fabulous, colorful panorama of New Orleans in the first flush of the jazz era, this book tells the story of Buddy Bolden, the first of the great trumpet players--some say the originator of jazz--who was, in any case, the genius, the guiding spirit, and the king of that time and place.
In this fictionalized meditation, Bolden, an unrecorded father of Jazz, 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. Though more 'experimental' in form than either "The English Patient or "In the Skin of a Lion, it is a fitting addition to the renowned Ondaatje "oeuvre.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679767851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679767855
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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By A Customer on March 25, 2000
Format: 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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Format: Kindle Edition
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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