I’m about half way through Blue Like Jazz and I should start by clarifying that I don’t hate it.
I understand the demographic that it’s pitched to, and that I am still part of that target market. It’s entertaining and partially informative, and a good look into the struggles and thought life of people who are new to the belief system. In those respects, I enjoy the book, and will continue reading it.
And before I continue writing, I think I should address that it’s not at all normal to write a book review when you haven’t finished the book yet. That’s fine. I’m not sure that’s even what this is.
My issues so far, have been strictly with tone and composition.
And it may be It’s definitely in some part due to my having just finished J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye only two weeks ago. Miller was born 20 years after the novel came out, which is incidental.
It’s not too far from the beginning that the tiny Caulfield flags start to show up. A self-affirming sentence following a statement here, an outdated colloquialism there, and the occasional one-liner that totally doesn’t fit the adolescent mind of the narrator. But by the third chapter, I had to check and make sure I hadn’t been transported to some Salinger-y alternate universe where every book is written in snotty, ignorant, seventeen year old Holden-speak. It freaked me out a little. Really it did.
I think, more than anything, it’s making me wonder why an author would choose to write in that viewpoint, which is so blatantly Caulfield-esque. To me, It’s like reading C. S. Lewis, and then twenty years later, writing a story about some teenagers that discover a new world in an attic. Just enough was changed. It’s just different enough to keep Miller out of trouble. Or to make people like me twinge with overzealous agony.
And now that I’m half way through, I’m seeing more and more that Miller’s style may be just part of his generation. “Oh, this was edgy when I was in high school. It’s still edgy now.” And that’s not always true. I’m not going to go start a hard-core band, or wear JNCO jeans, or sport a butt-cut. Some things are better suited for their time, and need to remain in their time.
Maybe my impression will change once I’ve reached the end, which is a better time to write a “review,” but for now, I reading a guy who’s channeling a guy who’s talking like a kid in the 1940’s.