Windy City Blues


I wanted to like the book, I really did, but it took me weeks to get through it.

To be fair, I picked up “Windy City Blues” by Renee Rosen just a day or two after finishing “The Truth“, so I was a little bit off my reading game. It was the last book in the stack from my most recent visit to the library and I was anxious to plug my mind into a new narrative to try to cleanse my proverbial palate.

“Windy City Blues” seemed like a shoo-in. Set in Chicago during the post-war era, it follows the intertwined lives of several characters as they move through the blues scene and deal with the racial tensions that lead to the Civil Rights movement.

A book about musicians in Chicago?  Considering my current novel, this seemed like a shoo-in. Sure, the era was different, but I figured that the more I could absorb about the history of music in Chicago, the better. In this aspect, it turned out to be a good resource- although technically a novel, the story wound around quite a number of actual historical figures and included a bibliography in the back for further reading. So I might look up some of the source material.

Unfortunately, I struggled to stay involved with the story. I can’t even really say why. The words were all there, it just didn’t speak to me. I didn’t feel strongly about the characters or their struggles, although I could intellectually see that they were struggling. Things just kinda happened. And then more things happened. It was a little bit like watching a historical re-enactment instead of a historical drama: it’s clear things are happening, but we aren’t given much insight into the characters’ motivations, wants or needs.

So it took me several weeks to finish it. I kept having to remind myself to read it. I feel like I’ve been having this experience more and more often with books: that I read them and find myself feeling faintly disappointed that they don’t sing to my soul. And they’re not debut novels: they’re by authors who already have a body of work. So is the problem me? Am I holding these writers to an impossibly high standard just because I’m now trying to write as well? Maybe I want to believe that all these published authors are significantly more skilled or talented than I am so that I can justify why their books are published and mine rides around with me in my laptop.

I suppose, if nothing else, I feel reassured to know that if they can get published, then so can I. It’s something to hold on to.

Not related to the book, but what a great poster image that came up in my Google search!

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 30, 2018.

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