Those of you who follow Cristian Mihai’s blog, know that he recently made his work Jazz free for download. This counts as his breakout novel. Without anything to lose, I decided that I would give a current author a try. (Looking at my reading list reveals how hesitant I am to read the works of the living.) From reading Mihai’s blog, I expected a work of quality. My disenchantment with contemporary literature made that the limit of my expectations.
As it turned out, I was blown away by this stunningly complex and wonderfully written piece. The writing felt as if some inimitable combination of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. The novel’s vision seemed to combine a Scholastic focus on happiness with a Conradian or Dostoyevskian knowledge of the fallen nature of humanity despite a drive for nobility. One felt as if one were reading about real people, yet on an elevated level and vividly alive. Yes, you’ve read this passage correctly: we have here an utterly unique young novelist, who’s well worth reading.
Jazz follows a young man named Chris, who has had the misfortune of having Cupid incite love in him for a girl named Amber. Formerly, this girl was the fiancée of Chris’s cousin Jay; but, following a rather squalid dissolution of this relationship, she flees New York City for Paris. Chris follows her hither to discover that he has taken up with a new boyfriend called Jacques. This beginning leads to a riveting psychological tale written in beautiful style. Many native English novelists have less exciting prose style than this Romanian–hence my calling him a new Joseph Conrad.
I could not put the book down for the first six chapters, at which point errands called me away before I could finish it in a second sitting. The mesmerizing quality of Jazz is especially due to the fast-paced and vivid style of Mihai. It pays special attention to the characters’ expressions and actions–rather like what one finds in Hemingway. But, the action is always fleshed out by the narrator’s thoughts and interior struggles á la Fitzgerald. The effect is most compelling, and Jazz can easily withstand several readings.
My only hope is that Mihai continues to fascinate his present readers and manages to reach an ever wider audience. I now find myself eager to shell out money for his other works!