Straight Life (book)

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Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper
Straight Life - The Story of Art Pepper.jpg
Hardcover edition
Author Art Pepper and Laurie Pepper
Country United States
Language English
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Schirmer Books
Publication date
1979
Media type Print
Pages 517[1]
ISBN 0028718208

Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper is the (auto)biography of jazz musician Art Pepper, co-written by the saxophonist and his wife, Laurie Pepper. It was first published in 1979, by Schirmer Books.

Background[edit]

Art Pepper began recording himself talking about his life around 1973, "as an act of catharsis and stabilization".[2] The tapes formed the basis for the writing and forming of the book.[2]

Contents[edit]

The book is mainly a description of events in Art Pepper's life.[3] He details his early sexual anxiety; his turning to alcohol, marijuana and harder drugs, leading to periods in prison; marriage and divorce; developing racism; and addiction treatment at Synanon.[4] He also discusses his music, including his influences, attention to tone in his playing, and his philosophy towards his own performances.[4] His despair, sense of inevitability about the course of his life, and lies and contradictions combine to accentuate the impression of honesty in the account of his life.[4] Added to his story are contributions from friends and family members,[4] plus reprinted articles from DownBeat magazine.[5] These often contrast with his own account of events.[5] The book also contains Pepper's discography to June 1979.[5]

Reception[edit]

Whitney Balliett, critic and reviewer for The New Yorker, commented that Pepper's writing displayed "the ear and memory and interpretative lyricism of a first-rate novelist".[2] Lewis Porter suggested that "Pepper seems to have been motivated by a compulsion to bare it all, with a minimum of interpretation."[6] The Washington Post's book reviewer, Jonathan Yardley, wrote that "it is my hunch, [...] or perhaps more accurately my hope, that sooner or later it will come to be recognized as a work of commanding power, withering candor and raw artistry – certainly the best of the many jazz autobiographies, and much more than that."[7] In Yardleys's view, the book was written "not merely to exorcise his own demons but also to destroy the jazz myth, to prove that 'Young Man With a Horn' is a lie."[8]

A Billboard reviewer in 1994 commented that "Few modern autobiographies can rival 'Straight Life' in sheer horror and power".[9] Literary scholar Terry Castle described the book in 2004 as "a rhapsodic riff on self-destruction. It is also one of the greatest, saddest autobiographies ever written".[10]

Publication[edit]

The first edition was published by Schirmer Books in 1979.

The book was republished in an updated form in 1994; this version added an afterword that detailed Pepper's life between 1979 and his death in 1982.[11] The afterword was written by Laurie Pepper; the book also included an introduction by jazz critic Gary Giddins.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Porter 1982, p. 296.
  2. ^ a b c Balliett, Whitney (January 7, 1980) "Straight Life". The New Yorker. 55. p. 84.
  3. ^ Porter 1982, p. 298.
  4. ^ a b c d Giddins, Gary (February 18, 1980) "Art Pepper Talks Straight". The Village Voice. p. 74.
  5. ^ a b c Porter 1982, p. 299.
  6. ^ Porter 1982, pp. 298–9.
  7. ^ Yardley 1982, p. C1.
  8. ^ Yardley 1982, p. C2.
  9. ^ a b Morris, Chris (June 18, 1994) "Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper by Art & Laurie Pepper". Billboard. p. 39.
  10. ^ Castle, Terry (September 2004) "Mirror, Mirror". The Atlantic Monthly. 294/2. p. 139.
  11. ^ Bailey, C. Michael (May 29, 2014) "Straight Life – The Story of Art Pepper by Art and Laurie Pepper". AllAboutJazz.
Bibliography
  • Porter, Lewis (1982). "Trane 'n Me: (A Semi-Autobiography); A Treatise on the Music of John Coltrane. By Andrew Nathaniel White. Washington, DC: Andrew's Musical Enterprises, 1981. 64 pp. Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper. By Art and Laurie Pepper. New York: Schirmer; London: Collier Macmillan, 1979. 517 pp". Popular Music. 2. doi:10.1017/s0261143000001392. 
  • Yardley, Jonathan (June 21, 1982). "Straight Talk from a Jazz Giant: Jazzman Art Pepper". The Washington Post.