You may have heard that the pioneering jazz musician Ornette Coleman died last week at the age of eighty-five. As a composer, he was known for his odd melodies, which reliably tested the boundaries of what jazz could accomplish. At The Paris Review Daily, two musicians and writers look back on his legacy.
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym 'GAN,' which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
Saul Bellow met Jack Ludwig at Bard College in the fifties. The two became friends, and founded a magazine together, called The Noble Savage. Then, not long after the magazine began running, Ludwig started an affair with Bellow's wife. Here's the letter Bellow sent him when he found out. You could also read our own Emily St. John Mandel on Bellow's novel The Bellarosa Connection.