Craig Suder is a combination of victim and victor. On one hand, he appears to be the archetypal dupe; in fact, Sid Willis asserts, “Luck has decided you’re the greatest patsy since the Jews.” On the other hand, his flight from adversity seems to propel him forward to experiences that are life-affirming both for himself and for others.
The character and fate of Craig Suder validate Bud Powell’s contention that he resembles Charlie “Bird” Parker. The now-legendary jazz saxophonist led a hapless, rootless existence marked by drug abuse and living on the edge of his endurance. Parker, however, wrote and performed music that could be both energetic and exuberant; his music gave shape and coherence to his private emotional turmoil. Craig Suder’s life is characterized by much the same pattern: stunning reversals and an ultimately triumphant transcendence of his problems when he takes flight.
Much of the frantic propulsion of the story is derived from its first-person narration, which is marked by short sentences and the active voice. In some ways, Suder’s clipped narrative voice emulates the pacing of bebop jazz. Having worked as a jazz musician, Everett has intimate knowledge of the art form that pervades this novel, especially the staccato phrasing of Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology.” “I could feel the push of the song, a tension,” Suder admits as a young boy hearing Powell play the tune. Much the same can be said of the...
(The entire section is 417 words.)