Shackling Water

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Doubleday, 2001 - Fiction - 232 pages
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"Written in a lyrical, exhilarating, and intoxicating style that brilliantly evokes the moods and cadences of jazz and hip hop, Shackling Water is a book for lovers of both words and song.
The novel follows talented young saxophonist Latif James-Pearson as he migrates from Boston to New York in hopes of apprenticing himself to his hero, Albert Van Horn. The center of Latif's universe soon becomes his room in a Harlem boarding house, where he spends his days alone, practicing intensely, and a downtown nightclub called Dutchman's where Van Horn's group performs. There, Latif studies the musicians from afar, unwilling to meet Van Horn until he feels musically ready.
It is at Dutchman's that Latif stumbles into another apprenticeship, this one to a charismatic drug dealer named Say Brother, and inadvertently comes under the wing of Van Horn's pianist, Sonny Burma. Latif also meets Mona, a white painter who is a regular at the club, and they begin a complex affair, which causes both of them to question their ideas about artistry, race, and love.
As Latif drifts slowly toward the life of a hustler and away from that of a musician, Van Horn himself steps in and begins to mentor the young man, relating his own remarkable life story in the process. But even as Latif makes his way into his hero's inner circle, his frustration with his playing, the turn his relationship with Mona is taking, and the demands of hustling begin to take their toll. Desperate and in dire straits, Latif returns to Boston to seek the help of his mother, his first music teacher, and the crew of childhood friends he left behind. When tragedy spurs him to return to New York, Latif is forced to finallyconfront his music, Mona, and himself.
An intricate, riveting, and original improvisation on classic themes, "Shackling Water heralds the arrival of an important and beautiful new voice in American literature.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Spoken-word artist and musician Mansbach debuts with the lyric story of a young tenor sax player exploring both the modern New York jazz scene and the experience of being a musician.Prodigy Latif ... Read full review

Shackling water

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This might be the best fictional work about jazz since James Baldwin's beautiful and soulful Sonny's Blues. A K nstlerroman (artist's novel), this first novel tells the story of Latif James-Pearson ... Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Adam Mansbach, 25, is the founding editor of the pioneering hip hop journal, Elementary, and currently serves as an artistic consultant to Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies. His poetry collection, genius b-boy cynics getting weeded in the garden of delights, was published to great acclaim in late 2001. He has traveled as a drum technician for the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine and a Richmond B. Williams Fellow studying hip hop culture abroad, taught writing and hip hop classes for New York City public high school students, and has written for publications including 360hiphop, Feed, and Trace. An MC and performer who collaborates with both jazz and hip hop musicians, he lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

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