Any of you folks read the book? The description below from the amazon page. Picked up a used copy.
"The year is 1855. Blackface minstrelsy is the most popular form of entertainment in a nation about to be torn apart by the battle over slavery. Henry Sims, a fugitive slave and a brilliant musician, has escaped to Philadelphia, where he earns money living by his wits and performing on the street. He is befriended by James Douglass, leader of a popular minstrel troupe struggling to compete with dozens of similar ensembles, who imagines that Henry’s skill and magnetism might restore his troupe’s sagging fortunes.
The problem is that black and white performers are not allowed to appear together on stage. Together, the two concoct a masquerade to protect Henry’s identity, and Henry creates a sensation in his first appearances with the troupe. Yet even as their plan begins to reverse the troupe’s decline, a brutal slave hunter named Tull Burton has been employed by Henry’s former master to track down the runaway and retrieve him, by any means necessary."
Good book. I highly recommend it. Tom is a gentleman and it was great he came to 2 of AEBG.
It was great to meet Tom at AEBG. It's a good book that affords us the opportunity of serious reflection on the contexts in which we keep this music alive.
I realize this is a novel, but if there's a reference to an actual occurrence let's have it!
Actual accounts typically don't begin with "the year is 1855" (i.e. "it was a dark and stormy night"). I can't tell if or at what point this is an actual account, or merely a paraphrase of an actual account, in the manner of Old West authors. I guess it's on me to obtain a copy of the book.
Dan'l, if you look at the Amazon page for the book you'll see that the above description is from the back cover. Actually, on comparison a few words are different, but it's just the publisher's synopsis.
(Nowhere was it suggested that the book is an account of actual events; it's a fictional novel.)
I read this book, I thought it was very beautiful, as well as being a compelling page turner.
Tom Piazza's ability to describe a profound musical experience in prose is probably some of the best I've ever read,
His research on early banjo and its repertoire and playing technique is pretty spot on, but it's really the feeing and the characters that made me so sad to finish it, it was in some ways as powerful as Huckleberry Finn, with the same dynamic between the 2 main characters, only Henry Sims is a much more complex and multifaceted character than Jim was in HF. The song that he sings to Seward at the the end of the book made my jaw drop, a brilliant sincere/sarcastic homage/indictment of minstrelsy - full of joy, defiance and conviction. It was worthy of William Blake in its ability to contain so many contradictions and still be so beautiful and evocative. Anyway, I liked the book.
very much looking forward to the book's arrival