January 21, 2005

CONSUMED:

The novel that was Artie Shaw's life: A 1,900-page fictional memoir took up the jazz legend's last years. But will it ever see print? (Scott Martelle, 1/21/05, LA Times)

So this is Artie Shaw's garret, tucked up beneath the eaves of a Newbury Park tract home surrounded by some of the most benignly uninteresting architecture you'll find anywhere. The neighborhood is basic California suburbia, circa 1966, with long sloping roofs that give Shaw's cul-de-sac a sleepy feel, as though the energy of young families has seeped away.

Shaw, the jazz legend, moved here a quarter-century ago for the view, not the home styles. The back of the house overlooks his pool and on the other side the hill drops away to Ventura County's Conejo Valley. Shaw lived in Spain for five years in the 1950s and the clear-day vista here of the distant San Gabriel Mountains reminded him of Catalonia, so he bought the place and settled in to work on what had become the consuming passion of his life.

A novel. About himself.

It was a long life — Shaw died here last month at 94 — so "The Education of Albie Snow" is a long manuscript, running 1,900 double-spaced pages over about 100 chapters. It was meant to be part of a trilogy, and Shaw kept at it longer than any of his eight marriages. So huge is the manuscript that even with Shaw's celebrity the work has yet to entice a publisher, although Ida Giragossian, a member of Knopf's editorial department, has been carving away at it on her own time for more than two years.

She's only half done.

"It's time-consuming, but I think it's eminently worth it," Giragossian said, adding that she hopes Knopf or another Random House imprint eventually will publish it. "It covers from ages 15 to 24, with a couple of flashbacks to age 7 and the first anti-Semitism he encountered [growing up] in Connecticut. It's wonderful because it has a coming-of-age quality to it, the young teenager and how he teaches himself to play the saxophone and clarinet."

Others who have seen the manuscript were less enamored.

"He wasn't a bad writer but he was an undisciplined writer," said publisher Lyle Stuart, a friend of Shaw's since the early 1970s who waited in vain for Shaw to write an autobiography. "I told Artie, you don't do a 1,900-page novel."

But would Artie listen?

Not often.


Who did he think he was, Joe Gould or Marcel Proust?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2005 8:05 AM
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