There are books. There is music. And sometimes there are books that read like music inside your head. You swear you are in one of those dark, smokey clubs. The ice might as well be clinking in your glass, and you get goosebumps on your arm as if the melody rose or someone’s suit jacket ran across your shoulder in the packed aisle. The upright bass thumps, the horns blow, and the piano, well, that piano just sings.
That is what reading Five Night Stand by Richard J. Alley is like. The entire book is an ode to old-timey jazz, as we watch the retirement of a jazz piano legend. Or maybe, I should say we listen. Because while we are reading words on the page, it sure doesn’t feel like it. The moment you put the book down, you feel empty, as if you have turned off a radio. The music has stopped.
There aren’t very many characters in this story, and there don’t really need to be. It really is a very simple narrative. A few people meet in the span of five days, and their lives intertwine for a few moments. But every moment was lovely and interesting and beautiful.
This book is a big yes for me. I just fell in love with the whole thing. Every breath, every song, every moment. I wanted Oliver to keep on playing, I wanted Agnus to find her music again, I wanted Frank to get the stick out of his ass, and I wanted Pablo to get everything he ever wanted. You’re going to have to find out what all that means. The book comes out on May 12. Buy this book. Go find the music.
NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.
I’ve reviewed Ann Patchett here before, and I just love her writing style. It’s simple, but her voice always changes to fit the characters–and those characters are never the same from book to book.
Taft is one of her lesser known books, but just as well written as Bel Canto and Run. It follows an ex-blues musician, a drummer, through his life behind a bar. He runs a Memphis club called Muddy’s, an honest living, since he’s trying to convince his ex-wife to bring his son back home from Florida. He hires a young girl as a waitress, and becomes close with her and her brother…and that situation brings trouble to his bar and his life.
Ann Patchett does a great job of capturing a Memphis old school bluesy club voice for the narration. You feel like you’re sitting on a stool listening to some bartender telling a story as he polishes glasses with an old white cloth. The characters are diverse, but linear. Patchett gives you only the people you need to know about and no more.
I did have some trouble determining the time period for this book, and I wish she would have given a better sense of setting at the beginning. At first, because of the voice, I was thinking 60s/70s, but the longer the book went on, the later the period seemed. Then, towards the end, the boy mentions Michael Jordan, so it must be at least the early 90s. Parts of the book could span that long, but it’s really hard to figure out exactly what space of time you’re in.
Taft is a simple, linear read about simple folks. There’s nothing terribly complicated about this. Some questionable morals at parts, but for the most part, it’s about good people just trying to get through life. As always with Ann Patchett’s writing, the prose is beautiful, and so I’d recommend it if you want a break from more twisted plots.