an established component of the makeupnof many cultured Europeans, fromnAldous Huxley to Andr^ Malraux. Atnthe same time in the United States, itnwas generally considered, at best, quaint.nFor the narrator of “The Bass Saxophone,”nlife in his little Czech town isndominated on the one hand by the Nazinoccupation and on the other by his preoccupationnwith the fact and lore of jazz,nhearing it, playing it, dreaming of halfmythicalnfigures like Armstrong, Ellington,nWebb, Eddie Condon, Bix Beiderbecke,nand Adrian Rollini. He has nevernheard Rollini, has never heard a bassnsaxophone, but he fantasizes Rollini’snprowess on this brontosaurus of thenreed family. He then unexpectedlyncatches a glimpse of a bass saxophone,nonly to discover it belongs to a Germannband brought in to entertain the Nazinofficers. Mesmerized by “a mechanismnof strong, silver-plated wires, the gears,nthe levers, like the mechanism of somenhuge and absolutely nonsensical apparatus,na fantasy of some crazy mixedupninventor,” he risks the ostracism ofnhis townsmen and punishment by thenGermans for a chance to inspect theninstrument, to try it out, and ultimatelynto substitute in disguise for thenmysterious bass saxophonist of the visitingnGerman band. At a grotesquelynstaged concert, the bass saxophonist appearsnand demands the restoration of hisnchair and his instrument. Through ansolo of mind-blowing ferocity, power,nand daring, he annoys and offends hisnNazi audience, which had been enjoyingnBavarian oompah music. But for thenCzech boy the moment is an epiphanynin which the central truth of his life isnforged. A fascination with jazz is transformednthrough revelation into a faithnthat recognizes only fidelity, purity, andnsacrifice. Skvorecky is writing aboutnwhat he calls “the desperate scream ofnyouth” that will always be inside usnwhen we have been touched with thenindelible truth of art.nIt is a simple story told with complexitynand beauty. Skvorecky’s writing hasnrhythms that seem to grow out of thenmusic he loves; long, lyrical, sentencesnrelieved by short interior phrases thatnpunctuate and comment upon the centralnideas. While the technique has obviousnprecedents in modern literature,nSkvorecky’s application of it is musicalneven in the book’s other story, “Emoke,”nwhich is not essentially about music.nHis musical imagery, however, is alwaysnclose at hand: “… her kitchen too wasnan island of security where she becamenan artist, a virtuoso with absolute pitchnfor tastes and odors, like a violinist canntell a quarter tone and even an eighth,nnot rationally but intuitively, with ansense that others don’t have and can’tnhave…”nThe author’s quick, intensive, developmentnof the characters in “The BassnSaxophone” and “Emoke” is consummate,nhis descriptive writing stunning.nThe most incidental figures seem fullynalive and intimately known after onlynArtnPetit Man in a Derby:nToulouse-Lautrec in ChicagonWhy did La Belle Epoque go down innthe annals of history as belle ? If an artist,nsuffused with the sense of a drawn linenand an equally engrossing sense of color,nsets out to explore ugliness as a sourcenof beauty—strange things happen onncanvas, and, in this instance, on cardboard.nAn epoch becomes a gorgeousnone, with no more title to it than manynothers, and it dawns on us that, logicnand intelligence notwithstanding, therenis a certain luminousness to what maynappear unprepossessing at first glance.nWe do not know whether Henri denToulouse-Lautrec ever had a retrospectivenof 109 of his works under one roof,nin France or elsewhere. But the Art Institutenof Chicago has had them all forntwo months and the exhibition has beennmobbed since its opening.nnna few strokes of description. The membersnof the bizarre, almost hallucinatorynGerman orchestra in “The Bass Saxophone”nemerge as clear and stark as thencharacters in a George Grosz drawing.nThe few minor usage problems in thenbook, as in “like” for “as” in the abovenexample, may be errors of translation.nOne serious mistake, “Charlie Bird”nfor Charlie Parker, whose nickname wasn”Bird,” should have been caught by theneditor.nSkvorecky’s upper level themes,nthe importance of jazz in Europeannculture, the difficulties and possibilitiesnof expression under repression, are impressivelyndeveloped.But the underlyingnrevelation of the book is in the beautynof the climax of “The Bass Saxophone,”nthe young man’s blazing recognition ofnthe truth he must follow. Skvoreckynenters the current American literarynscene as a purveyor of an unusual classicismnof feelings and a masterful communicatornof his own message. DnSome argue that Toulouse-Lautrec,nwith his off-beat manners and habits,nand his love for the rather crass hedonismnof maisons de tolerance and popularnmusic halls, could be hailed as a patronnsaint of the current narcissistic laisseznfaire and its unhinged aesthetic anarchy.nNothing of the sort. Assembled in onendisplay, Toulouse-Lautrec immersesnthe viewer in his universe in an unexpectednway. This universe is seeminglynlimited by its brothel-cum-underworldncast of characters, but its narrownessnis deceptive. It soon expands in even anskeptical consciousness to encompassnso much sadness of vice, the strangenwisdom of the uncomely, the grievousnvirtues of the unsightly, that its verynhumanity can no longer be “questionednor doubted. How it is that the richnessnNovember/December 1979n