Here’s how this week’s arts and culture piece begins:

Geoff Dyer is a British-born, LA-based writer with four novels and numerous nonfiction meditations on subjects that range from Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky’s cult classic Stalker to the photographs of Garry Winogrand to an inside look at life on an American aircraft carrier. His latest work, out in May, is a reflection on greatness in aging called The Last Days of Roger Federer.

But my favorite is But Beautiful, a lyrical, semi-biographical, semi-imagined “novel” of some of the greatest jazz musicians who have ever lived: Ben Webster, Charles Mingus, Lester (“Prez”) Young, Bud Powell, Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk.

Duke Ellington, one of the few who didn’t burn out before his time is in there.

And so is Art Pepper (1925-1982), West Coast jazz alto sax player, who was born in Gardena, LA, played the Central Avenue clubs during their 40s and 50s heyday, and lived for years on Fargo Street in Echo Park. He spent three years at the since-discredited drug rehab Synanon, at the time in Santa Monica.



  1. I enjoyed reading your arts and culture piece! I am a big fan of jazz music. When the pandemic first started and I felt so lost, I listened to WBGO (from Newark) and WWOZ (from New Orleans) nonstop. I also read “Straight Life” during the first month of the pandemic. I have never read a more realistic account of incarceration….Jazz music (and 1960s Italian movies) saved me during March 2020. I have only read “Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It” by Geoff Dyer. I am definitely going to read “But Beautiful” now.

    I would like to recommend a documentary to you: “Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.” It’s the best jazz documentary I have seen. Anita’s version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square” is just sublime. She was addicted to heroin like many of the jazz greats, but she said she got off smack by traveling to Hawaii: every time she jonsed for heroin, she jumped in the ocean; she said the pounding waves beat the craving out of her. She lived and worked right up until her death in 2006, at the ripe age of 87.

    Thank you for always writing about diverse topics!

    PS. I am very sad about the Phoenix-based (Brazilian) priest, Father Arango, who said the baptism rites incorrectly. I am praying for him and the people who he incorrectly baptized. What do you think?

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh let me know what you think of But Beautiful if you end up reading it…and the Anita O’Day looks fantastic; can’t wait to watch, thank you! Jumping in the ocean as a way to combat jonesing: interesting! Something worked, if she made it to 87…

      Oh dear, I had not heard of Fr. Arango and the “botched baptisms”…Since the Holy See has weighed in, and also because I try to steer away from doctrinal, political etc arguments here, I’ll defer. I will say that though I am far far from a person who believes oh let’s just do the Mass and Sacraments free-form, and I revere the liturgy and rites–what comes to mind is “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”…

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