Sunday, March 20, 2016
Old School. That's what this is, this book about a dysfunctional family that begins in 1957 and carries the reader through to the present day. I started this book in 1976. In '78 I made a splash by winning Best Short Story Award from Playboy Magazine. I signed with an agent and there was a lot of interest in this book. I had lunches with my editor in New York City. I had an opportunity but I wasn't ripe, the book wasn't ripe and I didn't finish it until 2014. I had to do some living before I could write the stories in this book.
I've drawn a lot of autobiograpical material into this narrative. I was the kind of kid that Aaron Kantro is in these pages. I was nine when I first heard jazz on a recording by Louis Armstrong. Can you imagine that? A kid who is nine or ten, maybe twelve, closeting himself in his little bedroom and listening to albums by Charlie Parker and John Coltrane? Today, fifty years ago, any time? That is a weird, precocious child. He won't fit in well with his peers.
Aaron's mother, Esther, is horrified. She regards any deviation from her plans as personal attacks. Her sons will become a doctor and a lawyer. Her daughters will marry socially prominent men of wealth and have two or three grandchildren apiece. She gets, instead, a dreamy musician who listens to "schvatze music" as the Yiddish term calls it. She is convinced that her oldest son will become a bum playing at Bar Mitzvahs and her younger son...well...he's crazy, he goes into trances and hurts people and then he can't remember what he's done. Esther's dreams are fueled by a pathological insecurity that develops into full-blown Manic Depression. On top of her clinical disturbances, Esther is flat-out mean. She's sadistic and clever.
This is starting to sound a little depressing. I promise you, it's not. The book has darkness, of course. But it tracks the development of two creative children who get no support. They need determination and strength to follow their dreams.
This is the Kantro family. Father Max, mother Esther, daughters Marilee and Sarah, sons Aaron and Mark. Max knows that all is not well in his family. It is the 60's and he has few tools available. He's trying, but it's hard to maneuver through the psychological mine field of his family. The world has yet to fill with more sophisticated knowledge. There are few books to be had about family dynamics. Eating disorders are unknown. When Sarah dives into Bulimia, she hasn't a clue, nor does anyone else, about this compulsive behavior. It's a total mystery and the only option is to put her in a mental hospital for a month or two.
In "Confessions Of An Honest Man" we travel the Hero's Journey with Aaron. He's brave enough to defy his mother. He goes to New York City at the fresh age of sixteen. He's searching for his jazz hero, the legendary Avian Coulter.
He finds Avian. The man is Avant Garde, a controversial figure in the jazz world. Avian takes Aaron under his broken wings and turns him in the direction he needs to go. He introduces Aaron to the successful blues n' bop saxophonist, Zoot Prestige. Aaron needs to play Black, Aaron needs to be in Chitlin' Circuit clubs and dives in Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis.
This is a fairly large book and it goes a lot of places. We meet Jimi Hendrix and we fight the Soviet Army with the Mujahiddin in the Eighties. Read the book. F'god's sake, it's $2.99. Then leave a review. Every author needs reviews. Thanks for being here.