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  1. #1

    Authors with a musical lilt to their prose

    I mentioned Ralph Ellison on another post. He played jazz trumpet before becoming an author full time. Reread the beginning of The Invisible Man and it may become more apparent. I could never finish Juneteenth... Still my favorite author and I person I've always wanted to meet if they were still alive.

  2. #2
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    Nabokov wrote beautiful, lyrical prose. (He also hated jazz.)

    The beginning of "Lolita" is wonderful at first blush and more wonderful the "second time around" when one has read the novel through.

    >>>>>“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”<<<<<<
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  3. #3
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    I mentioned Ralph Ellison on another post. He played jazz trumpet before becoming an author full time. Reread the beginning of The Invisible Man and it may become more apparent. I could never finish Juneteenth... Still my favorite author and I person I've always wanted to meet if they were still alive.
    Doesn't all authors' writing have such musical lilt? Or is this thread to do with tell-tale spittle?

  4. #4
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    Nabokov wrote beautiful, lyrical prose. (He also hated jazz.)

    The beginning of "Lolita" is wonderful at first blush and more wonderful the "second time around" when one has read the novel through.

    >>>>>“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”<<<<<<
    Ah! Nabokov!

  5. #5
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    Another marvel, Robert Louis Stevenson. Here is a bit from his essay "The Lantern Bearers." Lovely stuff. (The whole essay is worth reading and ruminating on.)

    >>>>There is one fable that touches very near the quick of life: the fable of the monk who passed into the woods, heard a bird break into song, hearkened for a trill or two, and found himself on his return a stranger at his convent gates; for he had been absent fifty years, and of all his comrades there survived but one to recognise him. It is not only in the woods that this enchanter carols, though perhaps he is native there. He sings in the most doleful places. The miser hears him and chuckles, and the days are moments. With no more apparatus than an ill-smelling lantern I have evoked him on the naked links. All life that is not merely mechanical is spun out of two strands: seeking for that bird and hearing him. And it is just this that makes life so hard to value, and the delight of each so incommunicable; and just a knowledge of this, and a remembrance of those fortunate hours in which the bird has sung to us, that fills us with such wonder when we turn the pages of the realist. There, to be sure, we find a picture of life in so far as it consists of mud and of old iron, cheap desires and cheap fears, that which we are ashamed to remember and that which we are careless whether we forget; but of the note of that time-devouring nightingale we hear no news.<<<<
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    All best,
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  6. #6
    Mary Shelley?

  7. #7
    destinytot Guest
    Friedrich Schiller's poem Ode to Joy?

  8. #8
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    Two of my favorites spring to mind: P.G. Wodehouse and Thomas Pynchon.

    Wodehouse wrote lyrics for actual Broadway musicals, collaborating with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern. Wikipedia has a nice article. Wodehouse's prose is a delight. The entire Blandings catalogue is filled with word-stuff that is just delicious. And funny. The Jeeves books are of course narrated Bertram Wooster who has a heart of gold but not quite a silver tongue, nevertheless the words flow with a music and rhythm that enchant. Did I mention funny?

    Pynchon's works are filled with lyrics for fictional songs, frequently surf-oriented, always a little off-kilter, oblique, and like much of his prose, definitely from the school of Rabelais. In my opinion, America's greatest living writer. If you don't believe me, (and after all, why should you?) give Mason and Dixon or Against the Day a whirl. And pack a lunch.
    Best regards, k

  9. #9
    Yeah. Pynchon's something else. I'm sure Faulkner's already been mentioned. What about James Joyce?
    And it's an easy call. but what about ​Shakespeare?

  10. #10
    Bukowski! He sure got some rhythm to his prose. Short and to the point phrases. He wasnt a fan of jazz I dont think, but always mentioned how he loved Classical music.

    Kerouac was a jazz fan! His style reflected it too.

  11. #11
    Haruki Murakami is a jazz and classical music enthusiast and both classical and jazz music and vinyl records are a recurring theme in his works and often his characters are musicians or play an instrument.

    He owned and ran a jazz club in Tokyo before he became an author.

    He has a "less is more" approach to his writing style.
    Short simple phrases, that create a kind of "flow" that makes it both really easy an enjoyable to read (or at least the translations I have read).

    He explains here how he became a writer and developed this style:
    Haruki Murakami: The Moment I Became a Novelist ? Literary Hub

  12. #12
    Tom Robbins!

    In his last book, a pseudo memoir called Tibetan Peach Pie, he talks about as a child a habit he developed when writing where he would find a stick outside and go around in a circle, tapping out on the ground the rhythm of what he was writing. He states he wore out a track in his lawn and developed a reputation for eccentricity due to this odd habit. Still today, he taps out the rhythm of what he writes.

  13. #13
    Glad I started this, I knew there were connections between language, literature, and music. I have always been interested in the connection between a language and its inherit rhythms, accents, and cadences. For instance, I can't speak Spanish (I really want to learn. For some odd reason, I took French in high school). When people speak the language, I hear phrases in triple meter. Triplet phrases or lines in 6/8. What do you all think?

  14. #14
    And let's not forget of a French jazz musician who's now most famous for his novels- Boris Vian.
    He's really one of a kind, his book L'Écume des jours( Froth On The Daydream) was one of my fav.

  15. #15
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    And let's not forget of a French jazz musician who's now most famous for his novels- Boris Vian.
    He's really one of a kind, his book L'Écume des jours( Froth On The Daydream) was one of my fav.
    +1
    "There are only two things: love, all sorts of love, with pretty girls, and the music…of Duke Ellington. Everything else ought to go, because everything else is ugly."

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    Glad I started this, I knew there were connections between language, literature, and music. I have always been interested in the connection between a language and its inherit rhythms, accents, and cadences. For instance, I can't speak Spanish (I really want to learn. For some odd reason, I took French in high school). When people speak the language, I hear phrases in triple meter. Triplet phrases or lines in 6/8. What do you all think?
    My Spanish is fair and I'm aware of it's rhythmic aspect. I never thought of the triple meter connection though.
    I'll have to listen for it. For one thing it is, IMO, highly inflected which is one reason that non native speakers even if they're fluent almost never sound right speaking it. Kind of like playing an L5 through a dimed Pignose amp. The pronunciation is straight forward enough but the accent is tricky.

  17. #17
    Hep- I thought you would mention Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn. If we talk French authors, I would say Louis Ferdinand Celine. Or how about Henry Miller. I would quote Miller here, but there have been too many horror stories of teachers getting in trouble for saying lewd things on the net. Nevertheless, Miller had a musical lilt to the "obscene" and "provocative".

  18. #18
    Proust? The bits about Vinteuil's sonata. Long time since I've read it though.

  19. #19
    Just remembered a great book by Geoff Dyer called 'But Beautiful'. Sort of fictional imaginings of episodes in the lives of a series of great jazz musicians, such as Duke, Monk, Chet Baker etc. Superbly written, poetic, but also very believable in some ways.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post

    Kerouac was a jazz fan! His style reflected it too.
    It may be unfair, but my favorite comment about Kerouac's prose came from Truman Capote: "That's not writing; it's typing!"
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    All best,
    Mark

  21. #21
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    Capote crafted many great lines. Here is a favorite:

    'To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.'
    I am no longer a moderator here. Please contact Dirk Laukens (username: Dirk) or Matt Warnock (username: m78w) with concerns normally addressed to a moderator. This includes wanting to delete your account.

    All best,
    Mark

  22. #22
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    It may be unfair, but my favorite comment about Kerouac's prose came from Truman Capote: "That's not writing; it's typing!"
    Definitely a great line - and unfair. That typing came to life when Kerouac read it aloud.

  23. #23
    Nabokov wrote beautiful, lyrical prose. (He also hated jazz.)
    Nabokov often said that he had no ear for any kind of music. It's interesting that his father was a great connoiseur of classical music and his son became quite well-known operatic bass... musical talent jumped over one generation...

    And I should say that I really cannot remember any mention of music in his books at all.

    I was really a fan of him in my 20s or so.. but now I cannot read him at all... his style seems to be too pretencious.
    But I should say that in English he is different... somehow more convincing.. at least for me.
    Last edited by Jonah; 08-04-2015 at 10:25 AM.

  24. #24
    Julio Cortazar said: if I could choose I would have chosen music...

    music including jazz is mentioned very often in his books and usually plays important role in it... I almost forgot to mention his 'The Persuer' inspired by Bird
    Attached Images Attached Images Authors with a musical lilt to their prose-julio-cortazar-playing-trumpet-274x300-jpg 
    Last edited by Jonah; 08-04-2015 at 10:35 AM.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    It may be unfair, but my favorite comment about Kerouac's prose came from Truman Capote: "That's not writing; it's typing!"
    There's a story about Kerouac reading poetry with some well known NYC jazz guys playing. Afterwords Kerouac,
    who was thrilled at having had the opportunity, said to one of the guys, J.J. Johnson if I remember correctly,
    "Thanks Man, that was really great". J.J. supposedly shot him a condescending look and said "Yeah, right."

    I don't know why this reminds me of another story but when Chet Baker was hanging out in Rome in the 50s he met Mussolini's son, who was a jazz pianist, at a party and said "Gee Man, sorry to hear about your Dad".

    Gotta love jazz musicians. I wonder if you can study this kind of thing at Berklee?

    Dig a drunk Kerouac on the Buckley Show


  26. #26
    Auden used musical references for different styles music very often... and he even used musical forms applying it to poetry.

    Besides in one of his poems he used 'The Composer' as a metaphor of an artist.

    He also collaborated with Stravinky and wrote libretto of The Rake's Progress

    (I read that they played Bach with Stravinsky four-hands.. so Auden was quite an accoplished amateur player obviously).
    Last edited by Jonah; 08-04-2015 at 10:45 AM.

  27. #27
    Glad I started this, I knew there were connections between language, literature, and music. I have always been interested in the connection between a language and its inherit rhythms, accents, and cadences. For instance, I can't speak Spanish (I really want to learn. For some odd reason, I took French in high school). When people speak the language, I hear phrases in triple meter. Triplet phrases or lines in 6/8. What do you all think?
    Of course there's connection... especially for jazz with it's intonative linear phrasing that is so much connected with speaking intonation of... American English..

  28. #28
    I read a good story about Kerouac. In a jazz club once he was drunkenly boasting to J.J. Johnson about how he (Kerouac) could have been a great tenor sax player if he tried.

    J.J. just looked at him and calmly replied, 'You look more like a trumpet man to me'.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I read a good story about Kerouac. In a jazz club once he was drunkenly boasting to J.J. Johnson about how he (Kerouac) could have been a great tenor sax player if he tried.

    J.J. just looked at him and calmly replied, 'You look more like a trumpet man to me'.

    That's true he does look like a trumpet player.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    And I should say that I really cannot remember any mention of music in his books at all.
    .
    Well, there is mention of music disliked in "Lolita". An early short story of his is called (in English) "Music."

    Curiously, Alfred Appel, Jr., who attended Nabokov's lectures on literature at Cornell and became an leading Nabokovian scholar ("The Annotated Lolita", "Nabokov's Dark Cinema") had a passion for jazz and modern art. His "Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce" is discussed here Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matissse and Joyce
    I am no longer a moderator here. Please contact Dirk Laukens (username: Dirk) or Matt Warnock (username: m78w) with concerns normally addressed to a moderator. This includes wanting to delete your account.

    All best,
    Mark

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