Coming Through Slaughter
by Coming Through Slaughter
reviewed by Mia Babcock, class of 2015
Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter is a fictional novel that follows the famous cornet player Buddy Bolden in the last few years of his life, from sanity to insanity. Ondaatje introduces Buddy Bolden as a barber and family man in the Storyville district of New Orleans, setting the scene for a story based upon insanity, music, crime and passion. Leaving his wife, children, and friends behind Buddy loses himself at Shell Beach, a town where he and his band were playing at. Buddy has disappeared and it is up to his best friend and detective Webb to find him. Back to Buddy’s point of view and he is staying with his friends Jaelin and Robin Brewitt. Although betraying not only his wife Nora Bass, but also his friend and pianist Jaelin, Buddy and Robin accommodate a sexual relationship of which Buddy exclaims that he, “loved Robin Brewitt, I think” ( 99). Buddy Bolden eventually goes crazy while playing in a town called Slaughter with Henry Allen’s Brass Band. He is then admitted to an insane asylum under the pretenses of being diagnosed with dementia praecox (an old term for schizophrenia) as well as being paranoid. He later dies in the asylum in 1931. The passionate, enticing, and manipulating music of which Buddy was creating slowly creates riffs in his sanity. Ironically the one thing that kept him alive all these years (jazz), is the thing that kills him in the end, by stealing away his sanity. Attempting to analyze the book for modern meaning I had to ask myself, “How can we, as a human race, apply music to our lives?” In Buddy Bolden’s case the music he applied to his life killed him, because although the music was ready for change concurrent with the turn of the century in which this book is based, Buddy’s mind wasn’t. The music he produced in turn took away his mind, and his life. If you like historical fiction, jazz, or novels based on New Orleans and the corrupt dimensions of the city, you'll love this book!