The Book Report Episode 14: ‘But Beautiful’ by Geoff Dyer

March 27, 2015 | 1 book mentioned 2

Welcome to a new episode of The Book Report presented by The Millions! This week, Janet discusses a book about jazz. As the great Louis Armstrong once said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know. Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m just kidding. Jazz is a performance-based musical genre that originated in the African-American communities of the early 20th century, and is marked by syncopated beats and, frequently, improvisation.”

coverDiscussed in this episode: But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz by Geoff Dyer, confusion, cross-genre literature, the meaning of life, fancy
writer switches, aircraft carriers, flying at night, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, sadness, pain, and heroin. Oh, and jazz!

Rejected as a musical accompaniment for this episode: Mike’s original jazz composition, “In a Bookish Mood,” performed entirely on the kazoo and theremin, two instruments Mike does not know how to play.

The Book Report is everyone's favorite weekly, literary show. Hosted by Janet Potter and Michael Schaub.


  1. Excellent. Just discovered Geoff Dyer essays, and the prose is so clear, so muscular. This sounds great and the preview on Amazon pretty much confirms it. Yes. Thanks.

  2. This is a wonderful book. I’ve given it as a gift to a number of people since I first read it over a decade ago. Concerning the question of what details in the book are true and which are made up, Geoff Dyer says (I believe I read somewhere) that he approached the ‘facts’ much as a jazz musician would approach an original melody as a starting point for improvisation. So, in a sense, his fictional parts of the book are a literary improvisation on the known details of these musicians’ lives.

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