One morsel review: A fantasy story historically set in the Twenties, this is a smart intuition, executed with more than a few uncertainties.
While trying to avoid the police on the street at night, a jazzman comes across a tramp who gives him his trumpet in exchange of the jazzman’s old one. The instrument turns out to be of exceptional quality… it also has the power to make all the man’s dream come true.
The premise of this story is a classic – the deal with the devil – but the author succeeded in making it fresh and enjoyable in spite of its familiarity. Just a shame I discovered at the end… there was no ending. This is not the entire story, but just the first instalment and honestly I’d have preferred to know it up front, rather than at the end.
When Terry, jazz cornet player, stumbles into a tramp in a alley, he sure doesn’t expect the man to offer him his high quality cornet in exchange of the old cornet Terry’s father gave to him. When he tries the cornet, Terry can’t believe his good luck, because he has never heard such poor, beautiful sound. But then, the tramp seems not to believe his good luck either.
The cornet is truly sublime. With its exquisite sound, it almost seem to turn Terry into a better jazzman. But something else also happens: Strange dreams of the Theatre of Shadows start haunting Terry and every time he wakes up, he discovers reality has changed in accord to his desires.
I particularly like this catch of the changing reality in accord to Terry’s desires, especially because, after a while, it becomes apparent these might not be Terry’s own true, more deep desires, but rather the trumpet’s suggestion of a easier, more desirable reality which is materialistically more comfortable. And there’s a price attached to it and Terry knows it.
The fantasy part of the story is the one I enjoyed the most. Not only I find the idea of the changing reality crafted by the trumpet fascinating, but also the place where it may come from, the Theatre of Shadows. In his dreams, Terry finds himself in this theatre full of people but cloaked in shadows, and even if he stands of the stage, he can only see a few of the people listening to him, which is quite haunting and even creepy at times. In this theatre, Terry meets a man (the devil?) who knows a lot about him and his supposed desires and tries to allure Terry into doing what the trumpet wants. These are very atmospheric, suggestive sequences, very effective.
Can’t say the same for the historical setting, and I’ll admit I didn’t like it because I personally think it wasn’t historically very accurate.
The author seems to tap into the surface of the era, but didn’t really researched it. This comes out in the details especially, details that clearly portray today’s life and simply transport it in the Twenties, regardless of things having been sometimes very different back then. This tells of a very superficial portrayal of the era, which spoiled the story for me, because, as good as the idea is, this sloppy handling of the historical setting detracts from the story itself.
Just a shame, because the story – at lest the part I read – was quite entertaining.