Friday, 7 February 2014

VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR & GIVEAWAY - King of Rags - Eric Bronson - Historical Fiction

Title: King of Rags
Author Name: Eric Bronson

Author Bio:

Eric Bronson teaches philosophy in the Humanities Department at York University in Toronto. He is the editor of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), Poker and Philosophy (Open Court, 2006), Baseball and Philosophy (Open Court, 2004), and co-editor of The Hobbit and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy (Open Court, 2003). In 2007 he served as the "Soul Trainer" for the CBC radio morning show, "Sounds Like Canada." His current project is a book called The Dice Shooters, based loosely on his experiences dealing craps in Las Vegas.

Author Links - The link for any or all of the following...

Book Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Neverland Publishing
Release Date: May, 2013
Buy Link(s): Amazon

Book Description:

King of Rags follows the life of Scott Joplin and his fellow ragtime musicians as they frantically transform the seedy and segregated underbelly of comedians, conmen and prostitutes who called America’s most vibrant cities home. Inspired by Booker T. Washington and the Dahomeyan defeat in West Africa, Joplin was ignored by the masses for writing the music of Civil Rights fifty years before America was ready to listen.

Excerpt One:

Whenever he had a difficult decision to make, Scott set himself up on the small hill with high grass and wildflowers. In the starlight he was especially careful not to disturb the patient, purple flowers. A traveling white schoolteacher once read to his class the story of the heliotrope from Ovid’s
Metamorphoses. Derided by the world and scorned by her lover the Sun God, a poor nymph keeps her eyes ever fixed to the sun. Streaked with purple, she is covered in leaves and flowers, roots that claw their way around her helplessness, forever binding her to the earth.

“‘An excess of passion begets an excess of grief,’” the schoolteacher quoted. “Don’t reach so high. You’ll be much happier if you lower your sights.”

But there was something about the nymph’s undying faith that touched him inside. She refused to be stuck here in this world, and that refusal brought hope along with the pain. Scott thought he understood the nymph’s eternal conflict. His music wouldn’t right the wrong, but it might help ease the loss. Long after the sun abandoned her, Scott sat among the heliotrope and played for her his coronet.

The hill had a further advantage: it overlooked the new train station. He was there one December day, ten years earlier, when the first Texas & Pacific railway pulled in from Dallas, on its way to Fulton, Arkansas. Since then his father had taught him to play the violin, banjo and coronet, but none of them could take him beyond his colorless world. Maybe the trains couldn’t either, but the tracks held that promise, going outwards, ever away. His mother believed the coronet was
the Devil’s instrument. Scott disagreed. Any instrument that brought relief to others was useful. It shouldn’t much matter who was dancing at the other end.

Under the wavering light of a half-moon, Scott played with all the sounds of the night: the high-pitched melody of cicada bugs over the running bass line of lumber cars and freight trains, garbage crates and short hauls sounding their syncopated iron rhythms: boom-chugga boom-boom: boomchugga boom-boom. The music of the night trains was the sound of waiting—waiting and waning and wasting away. The greatest secrets in life, Scott knew, lay not in the music or the

people who played it, but in the short, silent spaces that sometimes fell unexpectedly off the beat. The Stop Man taught him that without hardly even saying a word.

           During Black History Month this February, let's take a moment to remember a white knight.  Specifically, the White Knight in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.  
            When Alice finds the Knight he's shabbily dressed, without his lunch, and on the whole, "VERY awkward."  He also sings beautifully.  So much so that Alice is deeply touched, "listening, in a half dream, to the melancholy music of the song."
            It's a bit hard to take seriously, though.  It's a performance more fit for comedy than tragedy.  Does Alice pick up on something that we readers miss by not hearing the music?
            The king of all ragtime composers, Scott Joplin, reminds of that Knight.  Joplin died in a mental hospital, buried in an unmarked grave in New York City.  He once said he'd be remembered fifty years after his death.  Was he right?  His happy songs like The Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer are still recognized today.  But I think his most enduring influence over so many future musicians is in the sadness just beneath the surface.
            When black musicians were playing barrelhouse piano music in St. Louis' red-light district at the turn of the twentieth century, their ragged melodies must have sounded shamelessly happy.  And yet, in his autobiography, Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy recalls sleeping under the stars, moved by some mysterious sorrow, inspired to write the blues for the very first time. 
            Something about Handy's own talent for merging happiness and pain later appealed to Nat King Cole who recorded Handy's songs and played him in the 1958 film, St. Louis Blues.  That was seven years after Cole's now legendary recording of the song, "Unforgettable," and just two years after getting beaten up on stage by white extremists for the crime of being black and playing jazz.
            Or take Jelly Roll Morton.  You can still hear his Joplin-esque ragtime numbers on old-timey radio stations to this day.  The music comes from a time before his death in 1941, before an article entitled "Jelly Rolls fights an Unfriendly World" documented his financial ruin and declining health.  The king of jazz would have nothing of it, however.  "I’ve had plenty of trouble, all right," he responded, "but I’m not licked."  His attitude, as much as his music is forever enshrined in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.
            Lewis Caroll's White Knight boldly claims that everyone who hears him sing immediately starts to cry, "or else."
            "'Or else what?' said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause."
            A fair question.  If history teaches us anything, we should know the answer. What happens if we listen to today's rock, pop, or jazz music this month without so much as crying a tear?
            Absolutely nothing.