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It feels, sentence to sentence and page to page, like a work in the act of being created. It is not simply writing about jazz.... There is a cliché about music writing, sometimes attributed to Thelonious Monk, among others: 'Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.' If so, Nathaniel Mackey is compelled, rather than deterred, by the multiform madness of the enterprise. He is the Balanchine of the architecture dance.

—David Hajdu, New York Times

A new volume of the singular, ongoing, great American jazz novel


Late Arcade

Fiction by Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey’s Late Arcade opens in Los Angeles. A musician known only as N. writes the first of a series of letters to the enigmatic Angel of Dust. N.’s jazz sextet, Molimo m’Atet, has just rehearsed a new tune: the horn players read from The Egyptian Book of the Dead with lips clothespinned shut, while the rest of the band struts and saunters in a cosmic hymn to the sun god Ra. N. ends this breathless session by sending the Angel of Dust a cassette tape of their rehearsal.

Over the next nine months, N.’s epistolary narration follows the musical goings-on of the ensemble. N. suffers from what he calls “cowrie shell attacks”—oil spills, N.’s memory of his mother’s melancholy musical Sundays—which all becomes the source of fresh artistic invention.

Here is the newest installment of the National Book Award-winner Nathaniel Mackey’s From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, the great American jazz novel of “exquisite rhythmic lyricism” (Bookforum).

published February 28th, 2017