Re: RARA-AVIS: black cherry blues

From: Hugh Lessig (
Date: 03 Feb 2002

> just finished james lee burke's _black cherry blues_. best
> book i've read in a long time. there were a lot of beautiful des-
> criptions of country scenes and past experiences. his talk
> of running a trot line reminded me of years ago when i set
> a line up in the headwaters of lake monroe.

I read this book a few months ago, my first taste of Burke. I liked it, and I'll read him again, but I was torn over those long descriptions of
"arroyo-cut land" and rivers lined with this-or-that kind of tree and something called Johnsongrass.

I don't know what arroyo-cut land looks like. Ditto for Johnsongrass. Maybe I've seen them and just don't know it. I finally decided to fill in my own images. I guess we do that with every book. But with Black Cherry Blues, I found myself *thinking* about having do it, because some passages had so many specifics that were unfamiliar to me.

I confess to speed-reading over some of those descriptions because I wanted to see who got shot next -- which tells you something about my attention span, as well as Burke's ability to spin a tale.

It reminds me of a previous discussion on this list. It concerned Pelecanos, I believe, and his use of song titles. The debate was, if you don't know the specific song, does it take away from the narrative? In the end, readers probably just figure out what they think the specific thing must sound like, or look like, and move on. It was funny, though. The references to unfamiliar songs didn't bother me in the least. Whether it gets in the way is a question of degree, I suppose.

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