Ron Slate's blog

on How To Set a Fire and Why, a novel by Jesse Ball (Pantheon)

Jesse Ball’s novels clarify their unconventional premises and intentions according to their own natures. As a genre-shuffler, Ball draws you in through mastery of voice and context – strangely valid accounts of strangely familiar worlds. His processes demand as much recognition as his plots; his characters collude in gratifying the demand.

on Invisible Man: Ralph Ellison and Gordon Parks in Harlem, edited by Michal Raz-Russo (Steidl/Art Institute of Chicago)

In 1947, Ralph Ellison had been working on his novel Invisible Man for two years when he was approached by an editor at The Magazine of the Year to write a feature on the new Lafargue Psychiatric Clinic in Harlem. Lafargue offered psychiatric services to blacks and whites, the only institution in New York to do so.

on Conversations in Jazz and Music in the Air: Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason, ed. by Toby Gleason (Yale)

John Coltrane told Ralph Gleason that at live gigs his quartet always played “My Favorite Things” for fourteen minutes and his solo repeated a general pattern.

on The Young Bride, a novel by Alessandro Baricco, trans. by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions)

Alessandro Baricco’s thirteenth novel, The Young Bride, is spoken by the title character, now 53 and experiencing a “sudden disintegration” and “an uncontrolled collapse of my personal life.” But this is no illness narrative. Baricco (b.

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