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Devil Sent the Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America Paperback – August 23, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Tom Piazza’s writing is filled with energy and tender, insightful words for the brilliant and irascible, from Jimmy Martin to Norman Mailer. He identifies the unlikely, precious connections between recent events, art, letters, and music; through his words, these byways of popular culture provide an unexpected measure of the times.” (Elvis Costello)

“Tom Piazza’s writing pulsates with nervous electrical tension—reveals the emotions that we can’t define.” (Bob Dylan)

From the Back Cover

Tom Piazza’s sharp intelligence, insight, and passion fuel this new collection of writings on music, literature, New Orleans, and America itself in desperate times.

For his first book since his award-winning novel City of Refuge and his stunning and influential post-Katrina polemic Why New Orleans Matters, Piazza selects the best of his writings on American roots music and musicians, including his Grammy-winning album notes for Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues; his classic profile of bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin; essays on Jimmie Rodgers, Charley Patton, and Bob Dylan; and much more.

In the book’s second section, Piazza turns his attention to literature, politics, and post-Katrina America in articles and essays on subjects ranging from Charlie Chan movies to the life and work of Norman Mailer, from the New Orleans housing crisis to the BP oil spill, from Jelly Roll Morton’s Library of Congress recordings to the future of books. The third and final section delivers a startlingly original meditation on fiction, sentimentality, and cynicism—a major new essay from this brilliant, unpredictable, and absolutely necessary writer.

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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062008226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062008220
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #995,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I discovered Tom Piazza's work after he was recruited by David Simon to write for Simon's television program "Treme" on HBO. Of the many substantial benefits I've gained from "Treme", Piazza's own fiction and non-fiction has been one of the most satisfying. I sought out and read much of his back catalog in the same way I've sought out and absorbed earlier releases by a new musician I'd discovered. The wealth of this material is profound. Piazza is the rare writer who can weave together a satisfying narrative with compelling emotional content as in his fictional work "Blues and Trouble", "My Cold War" and especially "City of Refuge", and yet can also hold court on such varied topics as jazz, bluegrass, Charlie Chan films, Flaubert, New Orleans culture, Norman Mailer, and cultural evolution. "The Devil Made the Rain" pulls together several of Piazza's shorter non-fiction essays and it's a rich, sumptuous buffet. The scope of the collection is close to stupefying: how can one guy be so plugged into so many different worlds?

One of the last pieces in "Devil" is autobiographical, in which Piazza describes stumbling upon dozens of boxes of 78 LPs at a flea market, and spending a joyful afternoon picking through them for gems with the permission of his patient partner Mary. Besides scoring some rare finds, Piazza's awareness of Mary's graceful tolerance of his collecting 'bug' is the main point of the story, but I also suspect that it says alot about why his writing is so strong. When you collect rare records that can only occasionally be found in random crates in garage sales and flea markets, you have to sift through a ton of muck to find the odd piece of gold. It takes a great deal of passion and perseverance, and not a little stubbornness.
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Format: Paperback
In my view, the author's forte is the short story where few American writers possess or display his gifts, as opposed to longer pieces, and here he plays to his strength and talent brilliantly in the first two-thirds of the work, giving the reader short shots, brilliantly conceived images that flash quickly and some that bear rereading. This is a book written for the reader, a straight shot, clean writing and not lofty prose posing as literary writing. It's real, authentic, meaningful and there is a connection of the pieces, if not a recognizable theme. The best of the writing ricochets like the beat of a "fighting drummer" in a Zydeco band. Like the musicians he loves, in this work the writer hits all the keys on the piano and holds the notes just the right length of time. If there is any shortfall, and there really is not, it is not in the writing, but in the editing as the final passages or essays belong to themselves, apart from the collection of pieces that proceed them, and should have been separated into another publication. Buy two of these books, give one as a gift, and then buy two of the books authored by Keith Spera and make one of those a gift also.
Ray Mouton,
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Format: Paperback
This book is a true original and not easy to summarize -- a brilliant and extremely engaging exploration of a broad range of topics, from musicians including Charley Patton, Bob Dylan and a VERY wild ride with Bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin to post-Katrina New Orleans to Norman Mailer and Gustave Flaubert. You don't have to know much (or anything) about the individual subjects to appreciate the force, depth, and flair with which Piazza tackles them and brings them all together in a vision of America that is at once brimming with multiplicity and possibility and teetering on the brink.
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Tom Piazza is one of those Southern writers whose writing never lets you down. Each novel, essay, and short story is chock full of history, wit, sense of place, and passion. He has, since 2005, been an advocate for the rebuilding of the great city of New Orleans and this collection of essays includes several of his writings along that vein. His personal stories about the lesser known greats of country music that make up the bulk of this book make for some interesting reading that is hard to put down.

Carey
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A splendid collection by a writer of dazzling gifts. The pieces on Flaubert and Jimmy Martin alone are worth the price of admission.
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Piazza writes like he speaks. Better, like his subjects speak. After reading about Carl Perkins and Blue Suede shoes, I want to spend my 2 1/2 minutes "wasting" with the original recording. That's the best writing I have read recently, including high brow NY Times reviews and popular blog writing. Piazza just writes it as it is. I did not expect this kind of down to earth writing when I first saw the book in a used book shop. Actually, I just wanted to read the Dylan stories. In the music business, especially in rock and pop, it's hard to find true personal stories from an insider. Nice to see good writing in the world of hype. If you like reading and like American rock, read this book!
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