Norton £12.99 (430pp) £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Artie Shaw, By Tom Nolan
Friday 19 August 2011
Outside the jazz fraternity, the electrifying clarinetist is best-known for his short-lived marriage to Ava Gardner. He explained the bust-up with a joke about a man telling his wife why he couldn't make love ("I can't think of anyone tonight"').
"What happens," Shaw lamented, "if you're lying in bed with a goddess and you can't think of anybody?" Nolan ruminates on the mésalliance with characteristic subtlety: "Call it a tragedy. Call it a damned shame. Call it a stupid mistake. Call it quits."
But you come to relish the hyperbole in this assiduous account of a complex, bookish talent, whose "euphoric clarinet soared like the wrath and love of God". In the manner of J.D.Salinger, Shaw abruptly quit music at the age of 44.
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