Jazz And Twelve O’Clock Tales: New Stories
by Wanda Coleman
Publication Date: Jan 01, 2008
List Price: $22.95
Format: Hardcover, 160 pages
Imprint: Black Sparrow
Publisher: David R. Godine, Publisher
Parent Company: David R. Godine, Inc.
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Poets who can write prose that equals their poetry are rare. With this collection of thirteen new short stories, Wanda Coleman, Los Angeles’s unofficial poet laureate, proves an exception to the rule yet again. Jazz and Twelve O’Clock Tales owes its title to the lyrics of ’Lush Life’ by Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s right-hand man. Like the heartbroken lover of Strayhorn’s song, the characters in these stories lead lonely lives full of longing, of potential stifled by racism, poverty, and absurd accidents of fate. And yet, even though they are trapped by the present moment, their inner lives are lush, a mirror of the city of angels in which they live, a metropolis, ’always simmering,’ as Coleman writes in the final story, ’ever waiting to be borne on that balmy promised crescendo.’
Coleman applies a poet’s economy of words to her fiction, setting a scene with lightning-quick strokes, letting a detail, a dialogue, or the brisk vernacular speak for itself. Or, alternatively, she will step in and take center stage, an omniscient voice seeing beyond the impending and inevitable tragedy, but powerless to change either narrative or outcome. Powerless, that is, only within the bounds of the story, for Coleman is an author devoted to change, personal and political, writing to affect the balance of power in America. ’Nothing will satisfy me,’ she has written, ’short of an open society and social parity.’
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