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August 13, 1971 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1971-08-13

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Friday, August 13, 197


Page Five

Friday, August 13, 1971 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five


Mling~us: Angry Underdog

Charlie Mingus, BENEATH
THE U N D E R D O G, Knopf,
At last, after more than twen-
ty years and a thousand manu-
script pages in the writing, this
book appears. Legendary, men-
tioned fleetingly in record album
liner notes, scandal - mongered
about, the only thing wrong with
the book is that there isn't
enough of it.
Charles Mingus, black bass
player, pianist and composer, is
a volcano, and so is his book.
Born in 1922, raised in Watts, he
has lived in New York since
about 1950. Beneath the Under-
dog is the story of his life in
jazz and out of it. The narrative
is sometimes strained where

Mingus obviously uses re-created
conversations to fill in the gaps.-
He refers to himself alternately
in the first and third person,
but he has his own reasons for
that. Mingus discovered early
that the only way he could stay
sane in this world was to get out-
side himself, his motives and be-
havior, and to be an observer.
He built a wall around himself
for protection, but to live a
meaningful life he had to be able
to jump back and forth over the
wall in a highly unpredictable
Mingus' "legendary sexual ex-
ploits" are here-he says he
once balled twenty-three Mexican
prostitutes in one night, plus his
boss's wife. But the book isn't
about sex; it's about love. It's
about a seven-year-old kid all
dressed up in church on Sunday
night who locks eyes with a lit-
tle girl on the other side of the
The book has racism and ha-
tred in it. Charles Mingus Senior
taught his children that they
were better than certain other
folks because they were lighter
in color, which upset sister
Grace, because she was the dark-
est in the family. Mrs. Mingus
was proud of her freckled skin
and her tiny feet, because she
thought she was part Indian, but
Mr. fMingus said , that Indians
and Mexicans were dirty greas-
ers with lice in their hair. "It
was confusing," Charles writes.
He found out that he would al-
ways be a nigger to some peo-
ple. no matter how light he was.
So he fooled them all:

He became something else.
He fell in love with himself.. .
"I dig minds, inside and out.
No race, no color, no sex.
Don't show me no kind of skin
'cause I can see right through
to the hate in your little unde-
veloped souls."
Beneath the Underdog is
about jazz, too, because Mingus's

I am a good composer with
great possibilities and I made
an easy success through jazz
but it wasn't really success-
jazz has too many strangling
qualities for a composer. I
wonder if there are any jazz
players as fine as these cats
. . . If music lovers knew the
wealth of talent being wasted


edited by
For years
erature resid
the pulpy c
such as We
and tens of
ever, there
of successfu
As William 1
future of t
that of the
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have alread
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the pulps w
tions, letter
ials will nev
Perhaps o
boosts to t
lans own an
Is Now, whi
the drearies
cent years.
has priced t
ludicrous six
lars for this
For that sa
one could h
issue of whi
pass this dr
both quality
The openi
ress" by Ro
the tone of t
It is an ins
of a fellow
parently, is
giant beastie
through the
lple's comb
There follom
planation of
nomenon, b
as Young's
that it is
will really
quarry isa
r woman who
patches but
off his arm,
"Jenny Ac
Frank Anma
mick story
rock band.

Dreary Science Fiction
made to speak in an amazingly The only big name author in
WTURE IS NOW', messy conglomeration of futur- the volume is Anthony Boucher
William Nolan, istic jive and antiquated slang. whose "A Shape in Time" was
e Press, $6.50. Dirk's our lead guitar, a allegedly found among his pap-
tall piece of meantalk gristle ers after his death. Nolan says,
JRENCE COVEN with long slidey lizard I i d s "his wife Phyllis discovered this
, science fiction lit- over his eyes and loose puff- z e s t y, mischievous, somewhat
ded primarily Within adder lips that turn on all bawdy short story which n o w
overs of magazines the funky birds. He ranks takes its place in the Boucher
'ird Tales, Amazing large in the Red Dogs, a n d canon." In reality, it is an in-
others. Today, how- when he raps we listen, signiiicant little four page Vin-
are only a handful Nolan's editorial eye seems gette which Boucher himself,
i publications left. readily attracted to stories with quite wisely, never bothered to
Nolan points out, the a fair share of sex, which is publish. Nevertheless, the story
he genre, especially certaiily a legitimate theme in serves as a great relief froiim
short story, may lie SF- Unfortunately, most of the the miserable mess that sur-
'rm anthologies of stories of that nature in this rounds it.
eviously unpublished collection do not far exceed the One major exception to the
ral such collections literary standards of bad por- general level of shoddiness
y appeared, mostly nography. Typical is Tom Pur- stands out. The only novelette
und editions. Hope- dom's "A War of Passion" which in the collection, Ron Goulart's
h, the tradition of concerns a society of people di- "The Whole Round World" re-
vith their serializa- vided into two camps - those freshes the reader with its ori-
pages, and editor- who have sex and those who do ginality, skillful narration, and
er disappear entire- not. Apparently, the key to black humor. Set in the 1 a t e
eternal life has been discovered 20th century, just before the
ne of the greatest and the over one thousand set collapse of American society,
he survival of the wants to abolish sex. The hero, Goulart takes an iconoclastic
is afforded by No- Vostock, is a twelve-hundred- look at the logical absurdities
thology The Future year-old man who craves to to which presentday commer-
ch is surely one of stick with the younger crowd. cialism and radical cliqueism
t collections of re- He has to prove he's still good may lead. Although he lacks
Sherbourne P r e s s enough by making it with a their genius, his satire is not
his mediocrity at a well-stacked 268 year old chick unworthy of the tradition of
and one half dol- who has previously only gone to Evelyn Waugh and Joseph Hel-
s 250 page edition. bed with pain freaks. The idea ler. The story concerns the dil-
me amount or less, may hold some potential, b u t lemmas of a TV public relations
ave an entire year's Purdom's leaden prose squelches man who becomes inovlved with
to Analog, any one any budding interest the read- a radical organization w h o s e
ch would easily sur- er may have. "He grabbed her leader's brain has been trans-
eadful collection in shoulders and quickly threw planted into the body of a go-
- and taste. himself across her. Her hands rilla. Goulart's light, w I t t y
pushed against the massive style provides a great deal of
ng story, ",The Og- chest pressing down on her and entertainment while his crazed
bert F. Young, sets he overpowered her and bur- world is just real enough to be
he rest of the book. led his face in the hollow of her slightly disturbing. Unfortun-
ipid, mindless story neck. ately for the reviewer, Goulrat's
whose career, ap- "Nails raked his sides. Knees humor is almost totally depend-
the destruction of beat against his thighs. A wild ent on context so it would be
s that come to life animal screamed I hate you's in misleading to reproduce a short
power of many peo- his ear." Such writing sounds excerpt. However, as clever as
toed imaginations, more like the True Confessions' Goulart's work is, it cannot save
ws no further ex- reject pile than an example this anthology from its over-
f this curious phe- from a SF collection. all level of tasteless, mindless
ut it matters little, drivel,
story is so boring Nolan states in his introduc-
doubtful if anyone Today's Writers . tion: "when the last genre ma-
care. The hero's Donald M. Clarke has writ- gazine has expired, books such
hgigantic noisome ten on music and recordings as this will represent the only
he eventually dis- for the New Republic, futuristic showcase for ne w
not before she bites - Laurence Coven, a graduate science fiction." This horrifying
student, is a science fiction thought can only be allayed by
nong the Zeebs" by connoisseur of long standing. the comforting hope that Nol-
notbeor sh bte L urce .Covnaganduae sincniton"Tighriyn
ir is a typical gim- He has reviewed previously for an's powers of prognostication
about a Martian the Daily. may be no better than his tal-
The characters are theDaly____ ent for story selection.

book is much like his music: he
gives you few guidelines; you
have to pay attention. But nei-
ther his music nor his writing is
ever completely formless, which
in his music reflects his classi-
cal training. Jazz has dominated
Mingus' life, but he'is constantly
examining jazz and his relation-
ship with it. In the section of the
book - dealing with his own mu-
sical beginnings, he recalls how
his parents were cheated by the
itinerant musician from whom
he first took lessons, because the
teacher didn't teach the funda-

in the name of jazz they'd
storm the manager's and
bookers' offices and . . . re-
fuse to settle for the crap
they're getting!
This is a scream of pain from
a man who has already outlived
Charlie Parker and Art Tatunm
and Fats Navarro and Eric Dol-
phy and Booker Ervin and many
others. To be black in America
is to feel conflict; to be a black
musician is even worse. Mingus.
like Jelly Roll Morton before
him, had to decide whether or
not to pimp in order to eat
while he made music. (Jelly
Roll didn't mind, but that was
fifty years ago.) Mingus' con-
flicts have put him in Bellevue,
where he wrote songs like "Hell-
view of Bellevue" and "All the
Things You Could Be By Now
If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was
Your Mother."
Mingus is forty-eight years old
now and has had his share of
troubles lately: that he is still
alive in a business which is not
only competitive and racist but
extremely demanding intellect-
ually and artistically is testi-
mony to the zest for life that
bursts out of Beneath the Under-
dog. The book is skillfully edited
by Nel King, but perhaps too
much so. I would like to have
had more of it. Mingus, in his
music and in his writing, is more
than a writer or a musician or
an angry black man; he is an
intelligence, a soul who has
found somewhere the strength
to force himself on a disorderly
Today's photos..
Today's photographs were se-
lected from Robert Houston's
Legacy to an Unborn Son (Bea-
con, $5.95).
Robert Houston's photographic
statement is at once highly per-
sonal, informative, and shock-
hog, His close-up glimpses of
life in the ghetto invoke an
overwhelming impression of
those individual human lives
which most of us all too often
choose to ignore.
In dedicating this book to his
inborn son, Robert Houston
makes clear that "In attempt-
ing to give you a preview of
life. I have done so as a pho-
tographer rather than a judge."
He closes this dedication by of-
fering "to aid you in any way
you desire, but the choices are
yours to make. Rest now and
prepare for your journey. Eter-
nal love, Dad,".

mentals, such as how to read
music. All he taught the boy was
how to make the sounds on the
instrument that he could sing
from the paper.
It was as if a bright child
who could easily and rapidly
pronounce syllables was never
taught how syllables fit into
words and words into syntax.
I'm sure (the teacher) hadn't
any idea his shortcut method
would turn out to be great for
jazz improvisation, where the
musician listens to the sounds
he's producing rather than
making an intellectual trans-
ference from the score paper
to the fingering process.
But Mingus is also bitter and
almost resentful about jazz, or
at least about the way jazzmen
are treated by society. The best
jazz is black jazz and always
has been, but white men have
always made the most money
at it. Mingus writes that white
people don't have any business
playing jazz ("Why don't they
d e v e lo p something of their
own?"), but elsewhere he
writes, after hearing the Julliard
String Quartet:

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