Self-proclaimed short story month, post number 15.
Here’s a short review on a jazzy short story—fitting for a busy Saturday. Today’s story was Kenneth Calhoun’s “Nightblooming,” published in The Paris Review. You can read it here.
It was a fun story; not great, but fun and well crafted. It’s about a 22-year-old drummer who joins a band of old jazz musicians called the Nightblooming Jazzmen. Hence the story’s title. The young narrator gets to play with them once (to make him blend in, they even change his name—Tristan—to Stanley). They all go to a house party afterward, hosted by a group of old women who liked the show (“The women tell us how much they loved the music. / Ethel says her fingers are sore from snapping”). The generational gap weighs heavily between the drummer and the rest of the partygoers; his hors d’oeuvre manners, for one, are messily different from theirs.
At the party, the band members get into a big fight over the future of the band. The band started as a big band, and it has been unraveling as death plucks band members. Some say it should go on, some say it should close shop. The narrator becomes an uncomfortable witness of the fight.
The voices of the band members are interestingly rendered, and the young drummer’s interaction with them is well done. There is a catchy near romance with one of the old women at a swing (I can’t say if the ending of the story allows me to drop the “near” or not). It’s interesting how musical terms blend into the narrative, as they do in this fun description of the old woman on the swing: “I stand back and watch her moving past me like the arm of a metronome. She’s keeping time but losing the beat with every pass, slowing more and more, until I come in and use everything I have to get her back on the beat, to hold the time steady.” Of course, this kind of language fits nicely a story involving musicians.