This week finds me still examining Michael Jarrett’s Drifting on a Read. Through Chapter One, he discusses the satura trope of jazz, which concerns 'mixing.' He compares this to making a fine gumbo. If done right, all the original flavors are there, complemented and informed by the others. Done wrong, everything turns into a mushy stew, one big indistinguishable flavor. I can relate to this as a few nights ago I was fixing a nice veggie stir-fry mix. It was looking good when, toward the end, I decided to add more veggies and what I had were pretty hard (i.e. carrots). I decided to throw in some water to try to steam them. Unfortunately, it turned the whole dang thang into a big sloppy puddle o' veggie mush. You've got to know when to quit. But alas, all is not too bad, because I have learned something. And even if that is how not to properly satura my vegetables, that's still something.
Anyhoo, toward the end of his chapter, Jarrett offers a recipe for satura-in-writing, something Gregory Ulmer calls 'mystory.' Its a means for appropriating the story of a legendary figure and putting your own spin on the tale. Soon after reading this section, I was perusing the SF Chronicle Book section today and came across a review for John Edgar Wideman's Fanon, which treats the story of Frantz Fanon, "one of the 20th centyr's major revolutionary thinkers," according to reviewer Megan Harlan. While Wideman's book is not a reimagining of Fanon's life, "...the narrator and Thomas take turns ruminating on Fanon's character in dazzling, fever-pitched riffs..." The narrator appears a thinly-veiled version of Wideman himself (the 'narrator' even has a mother named 'Mrs. Wideman") and uch of the novel is taken up with the narrators' discussion of his failed attempts to write a book about Fanon (this from an author writing a book about Fanon that's not really about Fanon, as it is about himself--i.e. a failed book on Fanon).
Interestingly, Jarrett discusses the "autobiographical component of mystory," for example in discussing Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, about a mythic jazzman, Jarrett notes, "Ondaatje seeks to understand himself by researching Bolden" (56). With Fanon, it appears Wideman has a mystory-type project, in which he seeks to understand himself (or at least his relation to this Fanon project) by researching and understanding Frantz Fanon.