Summer reading-heatwave

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I’ve been making my way through this list the Rejectionist posted, starting with The Last Nude a few weeks ago and reaching a real peak with So Much Pretty and especially Half-Blood Blues. Which may be my favourite book of the year, it gave me that tingly feeling I haven’t had in a while, maybe since The Magician King or probably since before that, since I-don’t-remember-when.  I had to take Ceremonials off repeat and dig up old jazz, Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, things I haven’t listened to in years.

Bessie Smith singing St Louis Blues

I tried to find a specific early Ethel Waters version of that on youtube and couldn’t, but I found this instead and maybe it’s better.

I started listening to old jazz when I was twenty.  I was sleeping with this boy who was “kind of a big deal”, (so he assured me) although I was usually too high to actually sleep for more than a few hours.  I’d leave when the sun came up and wander around smoking until coffee shops opened.  One morning it was already hot and I found an old place with the door open, fans already going and this girl’s voice that sounded like sunlight, warbly and scratchy and old sunlight, coming through the door.  The barista told me it was Josephine Baker and I was immediately obsessed. I went out and got some of her records and for good measure Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith.  I couldn’t stop listening even at work; I was doing doubles at a tiny little place with good decor (a rarity in my town) usually first shift by myself, reading onstage until a customer came in, dance a few songs lethargically in the heat, glare at the customer until he went away again.  Nights were more exciting but nights I couldn’t play my music.  The day bartender like to have killed me, he was so sick of it.  There was a hair metal cd I threw on sometimes to change it up but the place was so sleepy and hot and you could see the dust in the sun coming through the windows.  He just didn’t understand atmosphere.

It feels like the heat and bad choices of twenty are pressed in those pages along with the story.

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