Behind the Blues

As a part of these blog posts, I was expected to make comments on other blogs that focused on my book. Unfortunately, no such blogs exist. So, I took to the internet and sought out some source material on the novel that I could comment and expand upon. I was fortunate enough to discover this, an interview with Esi Edugyan, the author herself, done by AbeBooks.com
http://www.abebooks.com/books/author-interview-half-blood-blues/esi-edugyan.shtml (the interview itself)

I thought I’d mention some things Edugyan said, and attempt to exand upon and add some of my ideas too them.

-Edugyan states that the title, Half-Blood Blues, was not a real jazz song (and this is true), that she came up with it from her imagination. Now, I’d like to examine this, the title. “Half-Blood Blues” is the title of the track Sidney and his band record in the novel, however, I think it isn’t actually a particularly good name for a jazz song. It is derived from the group’s trumpeter being half-Black and half-German, which makes the title sensible, however, based on my working knowledge of jazz in the first half of the 20th century, I just don’t find it sounds like a name that would have actually existed at that time. Songs that actually contained the word “blues” were reasonably common in the early days of jazz (say, the early 1900’s to around the early 20’s) – St. Louis Blues, Basin Street Blues, Tin Roof Blues. However, as jazz matured and expanded, titles got a little more diverse than simply the name of a place or object with the word “blues” tagged on at the end.

In the time of the 30’s, great standards were coming about, like “Body & Soul”, “My Funny Valentine”, “All the Things You Are” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it ain’t got that swing)”, and  “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (see my previous post). Names of jazz standards were becoming more inspired and thoughtful. So, for Sidney and his group to record a tune in the early 40’s and call it “Half-Blood Blues“, seemed to me like a bit of a musical misstep. While the title is still clever, and still suits the name of the book, it isn’t as historically accurate as it could be. This is not Edugyan’s fault, as to know the details of naming jazz compositions decade-by-decade is not typically part of the research done for a novel. It is merely something I noticed.

-Edugyan states in the interview that, pertaining to characters, Chip Jones was the most fun to write. Chip is the obnoxious and abrasive drummer for Sidney’s group, and he was is most definitely a source of comic relief throughout the novel. I can most definitely see why he would be a favourite character of Edugyan’s to write. Chip often gets the punchline in jokes, has many an “expressive” outburst, and maintains largely light-hearted and free-spirited throughout the novel. I believe that such a character would indeed be one of the more fun to bring to life.

-When asked what she might have done had she not become a writer, Edugyan suggests she would have enjoyed pursuing something creative, such as dancing or singing, saying she wishes she had “trained her voice up”. She implies here that she had potential to be a singer, and this makes me wonder if she wrote a bit of herself into the character of Delilah, an aspiring jazz vocalist who become friends with Sidney’s gang and sets them up with jazz great Louis Armstrong. Delilah is described as a good singer, but has never really taken her talent anywhere. This seems similar to what Edugyan says of herself, so it seems to me like it is perhaps more than an interesting coincidence, and that the author may very well have been channelling a little bit of herself into the character.

Those are some of the things I wanted to remark on after reading AbeBooks.com’s interview with Esi Edugyan. I encourage you to read the whole interview (link above), as well as watch their video review:

Enjoy!

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