Christopher K. Doyle, Blank Slate Press, 2017, pdf, 241pp, 9781943075409
Eighteen-year-old A.D. is brilliant but homeless. But with the encouragement of Isaiah, the janitor of the Peabody Conservatory, A.D. rises from “a porter of detritus or debris,” to janitor’s assistant.
Identifying A.D.’s problem (the blues) and his salvation (the Blues), Isaiah—musician, wiseman, and fugitive from justice—takes A.D. under his wing and teaches him the guitar chords that kindle A.D.’s quest for the tune lodged deep in his soul, a song inspired by his obsession over a Peabody student well outside his social stratum. When A.D. accidentally sets fire to his muse, killing her, he and Isaiah make tracks. In their flight from the law, A.D relentlessly seeks out and gives voice to the music inside him.
Author Christopher Doyle blends gospel cadences and biblical references with the grammar of the unschooled and the polysyllables of the autodidact to create Isaiah’s lyrical, if not quite believable, narratorial voice.
Acknowledge that it was as transcendent as God’s green gospel? That it was more resplendent than any opera of note? That your theatergoers ate it up as if served the last supper? But the director was gone, and as Runnymeade’s oratory ceased, he smiled when he saw A.D. in the doorway.
Throughout the book, poorly punctuated dialogue sends the reader searching for the answer to one question: where does dialogue end and narration resume?
You write that?
I looked at him straight then. I sure did, and I rubbed my hands together as if performing some magician’s rite.
Somewhere in this amalgam of literary tics—overly lyrical narration, confusing dialogue formatting, and inconsistent punctuation—is the story of a tortured musician searching for his sound. Readers who enjoy jumping through narratorial hoops in search of A.D.’s story will find this novel satisfying. I just found it exhausting.
Originally published in Historical Novels Review, Issue 82, August, 2017.
Citation: Kightlinger, Rebecca. "Purchase" Historical Novels Review 82 (Aug 2017).
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