I finally got around to reading Blue Like Jazz. Better late than never. Or…well…maybe.
The Short Review
He said some silly things. He said a few profound things. He said most of them badly.
This is in no particular order. Consider yourself warned.
Miller’s writing drove me crazy. He was trying to be profound, and wrote like someone always conscious of his own profundity. Take, for example, his analogies. I’d be tracking, tracking, tracking and then run *smack* into a brick wall. What made that wall? His analogies. They were insane. They didn’t make any sense. Analogies are supposed to illustrate something, to draw a comparison between two things that are alike in some way so that you can understand one of them better. The problem with these were that the things he was comparing were NOT like. They were unlike. Or in totally different categories. Take, for instance, the title of the book. In the passage that comes from, Miller is describing the night sky. But saying it was “blue like jazz” really doesn’t help much. *kathunk* A reader needs to feel like an author is with her, like the author is somehow, uncannily, inside her head. I’d be going to that place with Miller, hit one of these analogies, and become bored.
The problem here is that Miller was trying to be profound. He was trying to be all postmodern artsy. The main problem with postmoder artsy, of course, is that it doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t have to. It’s not necessarily supposed to. And it doesn’t. So I struggled with the book.
I also realized, about halfway through, that most of the really profound things in the book were other people. They had said these things to Miller and he said them to us. I know that some may argue that he still deserves credit for these points, having put them in order, presented and packaged all nicely, so I (even I, non-postmodern-artsy as I am) could understand them. But I don’t buy it. He didn’t have profound things of his own to say–they all came from the voices that spoke into his life. Now, he does have a knack for telling bits and pieces of stories so that you can see them, but the points are not his own. That’s a little creepy, if you ask me.
On the other hand, parts of his book really touched me. They convicted me. They made me think. They put words to things that hadn’t quite been spoken yet. And that’s always a cool experience. But they weren’t always the deep points, and they weren’t always the ones Miller seemed to think important (or profound). And I guess that’s how the book felt to me: slightly off. It was onto something (or maybe even several things) but the execution of that was all off. A little skewed. A little crazy.