Creative Nonfiction

Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz

Writes Richard Terrill, “The name fakebook derives from recognition that a jazz musician who is improvising over a set of chord changes is “faking,” making up his or her own melody. The fakebook then is a place to start, the structure upon which music is completed.” For this Fakebook, with its “improvisations” that pay homage to various greats like Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, and John Coltrane, and with its exploration of how jazz works, jazz is the place to start in coming to terms with one’s limits, in music and in life. After pursuing music as a young man—backing up celebrity performers at dances and county fairs, traveling with a rhythm and blues outfit, playing low paying jazz gigs in bars and lounges—Terrill concluded he’d never “make it” as a full time professional saxophonist. He became a published writer of memoir, poetry, and essays, followed a career as a teacher of writing, and for ten years never touched the horn. But then he took up playing again—almost as a whim at first, a self-dare—and soon rediscovered on weekend gigs the challenges, the despair and exhilaration, that jazz had always promised him. All of this he expresses in prose that glows with feeling and self-perception and makes Fakebook a work of literary consequence and true inspiration.

This book gets it absolutely right. It’s the story of all of us who have ever earned a dollar playing music. –Lyle Mays, Grammy Award-Winning Keyboardist, The Pat Metheny Group

Saturday Night in Baoding

Winner of the AWP Award for Nonfiction.

“Whether he’s writing about ballroom dancing or bicycles, sex or secrecy, the ‘New China’ or Chairman Mao—or even of his own desire to receive the attention of attractive Chinese women—Richard Terrill is the perfect guide to a misunderstood country and an uncertain time. In Saturday Night In Baoding, Terrill writes with intelligence, honesty, and empathy about the people he meets, the person he is, and the moment that was.” –Joe Mackall, Editor, River Teeth


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