Daryl Sherman (Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel, 59 W. 44, Monday nights through April 27). A smart, light-footed songstress whose piping, Mildred Bailey-flavored voice never fails to swing or to please, Sherman is currently appearing on Mondays at the Oak Room, accompanied by James Chirillo on guitar and Boots Maleson on bass. They don’t come any hipper (TT).
Archives for April 7, 2009
The page proofs of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong will be sent to me on April 24. At that point I’ll have a month to make my final corrections. Then I’ll be done–really, really done. It can’t happen soon enough. I’ve read through the manuscript so many times that I’ve lost my ability to see what’s there, save on a word-by-word basis. Sometimes I reread Pops and hug myself with delight, sure that I’ve penned a masterpiece. Just as often, though, my heart sinks to my shoes and I feel equally sure that I dropped the ball somewhere along the way.
The good news, such as it is, is that I’ve been a professional author long enough to know that both reactions are predictable, and that neither is meaningful. Manic depression is an inevitable stage in the publication of a book, and I’m there with a vengeance. The only reason why it isn’t worse is because I have the July 25 premiere of The Letter to distract me, which is sort of like being distracted from your impending execution by voluntarily submitting to root-canal therapy.
In my saner moments I feel fairly confident that Pops is a solid piece of work, maybe even the best thing that I’ve done. But Louis Armstrong was a great man, and such birds of paradise deserve far more than the best that a biographer has in him. As I acknowledged in this space a couple of months ago, “there’s no such thing as a definitive biography of a great man. There can’t be. A great man (or woman) is too big to cram into a book-sized box.” On my bad days I look at Pops and see only the things that I wish were better about it, of which there are plenty. On other days I rub my hands together like Wile E. Coyote in “Operation: Rabbit” and imagine myself to be a biographical super-genius:
I read through the manuscript for the umpteenth time on Sunday morning and am once again feeling like Mr. Coyote. Alas, we all know what happened to him…
“The same thing has happened in recent history: the French Revolution liberated people from the power of the aristocrats. But the bourgeoisie that took over represented the exploitation of man by man and had to be destroyed–as in the Russian Revolution, which then degenerated into totalitarianism, Stalinism, and genocide. The more you make revolutions, the worse it gets. Man is driven by evil instincts that are often stronger than moral laws.”
Eugène Ionesco, interview, The Paris Review, 1984