Saturday, January 23, 2010

Robin Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life of an American Original

For Christmas, Santa Claus gave me an Amazon Kindle. And the first book I downloaded and read via Kindle was this excellent biography of one of jazz's great pianists, Thelonious Monk.

First, let me discuss the book itself.

Kelley's pacing is impeccable as he recounts the early years of Monk's parents, the years growing up and starting out in the Harlem club scene, as well as the "un"-years, the bebop explosion, and the final years in seclusion. While sufficient time is spent analyzing the songs for which Monk became well-known, Kelley never allows the writing to become jargony or overwrought with obscure musical terminology. And his reverence for Monk is seen in his treatment of Monk's behavior over the years, erroneously attributed to mere eccentricity and irresponsibility; this may not be the first book to explore Monk's depression and how it affected his performance, creativity, and public perception, but it becomes quickly evident that the author loves and deeply respects his subject matter, making this all the more enjoyable to read.

If you like this era of jazz and you're looking for a biography that is a "good read," I highly recommend this book.

As for the Kindle itself, I love it! Never thought I'd say that, since I've always been a bibliophile who enjoys the aesthetics of a good book -- the smell of a used copy, the physicality of the pages, the book jacket or cover art, etc. But the Kindle is light and compact (much lighter than lugging around Thomas Pynchon's Against The Day, I tells ya!), and easily allows you to adjust the font size for a comfortable read. Combine that with the built-in New Oxford American Dictionary, highlighting and annotating features, and online access ... and you have a fun little device that actually enhances the reading experience! Now, it's not perfect, and I do have further observations about the reading experience that I'll explore here at another time, but I gotta admit: I am thoroughly enjoying my Kindle.

Now the big question: Which book do I download next?? Any suggestions??

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