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Crepuscule W/Nellie: a novel (#RECURRENT) (Volume 1) Paperback – October 7, 2014
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"The challenge in writing on behalf of Joe Milazzo's fiction is finding the language to convey how special it is, but let us begin with audacious and fearless, lyrical and brilliant, superbly imaginative and assuredly accomplished--one of tomorrow's great novelists on the cusp of his moment." -- Steve Erickson, Author of Zeroville and Our Ecstatic Days
"A polyvocal narrative that's part Faulkner à la midcentury Manhattan's jazz epicenters, part early 90's avant-pop crossed with Black Mountain poetics, and part ghost, Joe Milazzo's genrebending Crepuscule W/ Nellie boldly re-imagines the relationship between fact and fiction." --Claire Donato, author of Burial
"Milazzo dug this lost recording of the Monk/Monk/Pannonica trio--dug as in figured, as in got into, as in exhumed--out that 'dustbin' folks talk about... [A] story storying history... and the individuals ignored so long they must come back to us in books. Our author has given us a fascinating one. Dig it, dig it, dig it."--Douglas Kearney, author of Patter
"So rarely do we get a novel this momentous, challenging, ambitious--Crepuscule W/ Nellie transcends expectation. I'm moved by the fierce acuity of the maximalist prose ... Joe Milazzo's language brilliantly echolocates that essentially American distance, sounding out an American loneliness that is with us still."--Sesshu Foster, author of Atomik Aztex
"Joe Milazzo's Crepuscule W/ Nellie takes as its great and original subject a care-giver's, literally home-maker's immensely improvising relation to a creative genius, a demanding, needy, powerful, enigmatic, often disappointing man who was her husband... [A] deep, interior book about lives that included jazz and everything else. A book that will last."--Joseph McElroy, author of Cannonball and Women and Men
From the Inside Flap
With an introduction by Robin Myrick.
Top customer reviews
This book is not for everyone, but it's probably for more people than might think. I was intimidated by the reviews, which make it sound like something you would buy to put on your shelf and impress people, but not actually read for enjoyment.
To be clear, it is extremely wordy. It is challenging and sometimes frustrating. But it's worth it. It's exactly the sort of book you would expect a poet to write--everything in this book has been re-imagined in some way, looked at differently--but not at the expense of each character having a distinctive and enchanting voice.
My advice? Read it slowly. If you are trying to get through as many books as possible as quickly as possible, Crepuscule will frustrate you. If, however, you just read for the enjoyment of it, you'll find a lot to enjoy.
If I, a troglodyte who had never even heard of Thelonious Monk and prefers the clear, spare prose of Hemingway, can enjoy this book, there is a good chance you will as well. The convenient way to display your elevated literary tastes is just an added bonus.
Milazzo is ahead of his time. Whatever literary gifts to the novel form and/or historical fiction genre Crepuscule W/ Nellie will contribute to the evolution of literature is for a different mind and perhaps a different mind of a future age to determine. I can only speculate that it will manifest in an element that will not lull the reader into an escapist dream, but instead rivet the reader to the present moment, mind fully alert and engaged, if I may borrow a metaphor from the text, "Roman candle-style." (p. 346)
Milazzo also says in the novel, "improvisations have no beginnings, no middles, no ends, no durable margins or lustrous, i.e. blandly duplicitous, identities. [B]ut...they are somehow superlative, sweet, paralyzed...." (p. 341) Boom! There we have it, Crepuscule W/ Nellie in a nutshell. Read it, as I did, pacing the floor, out loud. Jam with it. Become the instrument, Thelonious Monk's, yay, Milazzo's eighty-eights, and let it jam through you.
Milazzo crafts inevitable prose that the reader seems to wander into late in its life. The text continues to chatter and hmmmm long after the book is shut and face down on the bedroom floor. Yet, for a text that so aggressively experiments with voice, style, attribution, and chronology, Nellie is still profoundly human. It is difficult for me to think of many books (much less in the historical or biographical fiction category in which I might reductively include Nellie) that balance such pursuits so effectively. Ulysses, perhaps? Faulkner?
Notably there is very little jazz in what could be called a 'jazz' book. I like to think that Milazzo's writing itself is the musicality that accompanies the narrative. I see that general absence as a positive thing in that often the voyeuristic depiction of creative practices can be embarrassingly simplistic, even pornographic, in an attempt to satisfy what the outside viewer believes to be the whole of the creative person's identity. By downplaying the creative processes Milazzo allows the basic human processes to take primacy over what we already know to be the creative output of the character.
I admit that the key passage in framing the story for me, though it did not contain any of who I would characterize as the three main protagonists, follows John (Coltrane) attempting to get an instrument out of hock. His treatment by the shopkeeper, the nothingness of him (John), both to the 'othering' system, and to his still struggling and unrecognized self, juxtaposed against the everythingness we believe we know about him, that we assign to him, was able to put Nellie's understanding of, and perception of her husband into perspective for me. It helped us see Monk as the anonymous anybody that he was, the normal human being that he was, not seated at the piano.