Jazz & Twelve O'clock Tales: New Stories

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David R. Godine Publisher, 2008 - Fiction - 147 pages
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Coleman is best known for her "warrior voice." [But her] voice too can weep elegiac, summoning memories of childhood's neighborhoods her South L.A.'s wild-frond palms, the smog-smear of pre-ecology consciousness. Her voice hits notes as desperate as Billie Holiday's tours of sorrow's more desolate stretches. But it can also land a wily punch line as solid as that of a stand-up comic. Lynell George, Los Angeles Times 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." Coleman is not just wickedly wise, she is transcendent. The Washington Post

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - kidzdoc - LibraryThing

This is a collection of short stories about working class African-Americans living in Los Angeles, and their daily struggles, loves, frustrations, and dreams. Ms. Coleman is an accomplished poet, and ... Read full review

Jazz and Twelve O'Clock Tales: New Stories (A Black Sparrow Book)

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Jazz runs throughout these 13 short stories, and the "twelve o'clock" of the title is probably midnight rather than high noon. Known more as a poet, Coleman has published other collections (Heavy ... Read full review


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About the author (2008)

Wanda Coleman - poet, storyteller and journalist - was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is the recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was awarded the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for Mercurochrome.

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