Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Kurt Gottschalk: Little Apples

Florence Wetzel By

Sign in to view read count
Little Apples

Kurt Gottschalk

Softcover; 184 pages

ISBN: 978-0-557-31119-4

Spearmint Lit


Stories about New York City tend to focus on the city's glamorous side. But in a population of eight million people, only a tiny slice of the city's residents actually live the Sex and the City lifestyle, wearing designer clothes while air-kissing at museum openings. Respected music journalist Kurt Gottschalk, whose work has appeared in All About Jazz, The Wire and Signal to Noise, has written an insightful and enormously entertaining book about those on the margins of what is, hands down, the greatest city in the world. (Sorry, Paris!).

The sixteen short stories in Little Apples are not about the Big Apple's movers and shakers, but instead describe the city's dog walkers, part-time teachers, found-object artists, jazz tambourinists and floundering Julliard graduates. These are people who live in ground-floor apartments next to the air shaft, who can't afford to pay the cover charge at the Village Vanguard, and whose mode of transportation is the subway or their own two feet. There's a gritty charm to be found in this lifestyle and a fair bit of humor as well, but there's also the tangible pathos of feeling lost and lonely in the midst of millions of people. To his great credit, Gottschalk manages to reveal all these sides of the city, and more.

Most of the stories concern artists of one form or another, but Gottschalk doesn't shrink from New York's seamy side. Characters find themselves at the notorious pickup joint Coyote Ugly, looking to take the edge off a lonely night, or add spice to a relationship with a body shot (Google for a definition). One of the most poignant stories concerns a trip to an S&M dungeon, where the narrator searches for an affectionate glance from his dominatrix, realizing he would much rather drink beer and watch a bad movie with her than anything else.

There are also four stories featuring a private eye named Buddy Zinn, who dispenses Taoist wisdom to uncomprehending clients. Gottschalk nails the hardboiled-detective lingo, with lines that would make Raymond Chandler proud: "Saying she had an hourglass figure would have been an understatement—the sand in that glass would take a week to pass through."

Gottschalk is a wry and accurate observer; he is masterful at finding his characters' vulnerable spots, but he never exploits their frailties, and always approaches them with heart. He has a gift for dialogue, both external and internal, and some of the most entertaining passages involve characters wrestling with their own thoughts. In his clean, crisp prose, Gottschalk manages precisely to convey the convoluted dance between thoughts and actions and other people's reactions: "You did what you did. It's OK, and it's OK to talk about it. And it's OK if you used it to impress people, too. It's not like you made it up. If something happens to you, it's yours to tell, isn't it?"

A deeper theme of the book concerns the nature of stories. The structure of the book shows the way stories endlessly intersect, as well as their elusiveness. One character misses his dead wife's stories, so he asks someone to make up stories for him. One of these tales pops up later as a Buddy Zinn mystery, but the diary that explains the backstory is in another character's possession. And of course, not all the stories are true: throughout the book the characters use stories to invent their identities as well as hide them, creating endless confusion for themselves and others. Gottschalk is wise enough not to answer these unanswerable questions about truth and identity and the human thirst for narrative, but this ongoing leitmotif adds richness to each and every tale in the book.

By the time the reader has finished Little Apples, they will have taken a journey through the physical landscape of New York, as well as the emotional lives of a cross section of New Yorkers, enjoying along the way Gottschalk's concise meditations on art, loneliness, jazz, money, creativity, romance and, yes, apples. Little Apples manages to be charming and wistful and blunt and interesting and funny all at one time, exactly like the city that inspired it.



comments powered by Disqus


Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Book Reviews
Ziga Koritnik: Cloud Arrangers
By Nenad Georgievski
February 3, 2019
Book Reviews
Ricochet: David Bowie 1983
By Nenad Georgievski
February 2, 2019
Book Reviews
Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story by Randy Fox
By C. Michael Bailey
February 2, 2019
Book Reviews
Billie Holiday: Lady Sings The Blues
By Ian Patterson
January 16, 2019
Book Reviews
Tracy Fessenden: Religion Around Billie Holiday
By Steve Provizer
January 8, 2019
Book Reviews
Sonny Rollins: Meditating on a Riff
By Steve Provizer
December 31, 2018
Book Reviews
Dexter Gordon: Portrait of a Sophisticated Giant
By Steve Provizer
December 30, 2018