Coming Through Slaughter Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Coming Through Slaughter.
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Coming Through Slaughter Summary & Study Guide Description

Coming Through Slaughter Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje.

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje examines the life of Charles ("Buddy") Bolden, pioneer jazz performer, barber, journalist, family man, and "infamous man about town," who goes insane and dies institutionalized.

Charles ("Buddy") Bolden, pioneer jazz performer, barber, journalist, family man, and "infamous man about town," suddenly disappears from New Orleans after slashing and fighting with a customer he is barbering in Joseph's Shaving Parlor. Buddy has learned that Tom Pickett is having an affair with his common-law wife, Nora Bass. After he has been missing 5-6 months, Nora contacts Detective Webb, Buddy's friend since adolescence, who worries about Buddy surviving on his own. Through interviews Webb learns that Buddy is in Shell Beach, living with Jaelin and Robin Brewitt and making love with Robin.

Webb visits photographer E. J. Bellocq and obtains a photograph of Buddy. He learns that Buddy convinces whores to pose for Bellocq. Bellocq burns down his room around himself. Buddy, meanwhile talks to Robin about Bellocq's influence in getting him to think beyond music. Other witnesses confirm Bellocq's strong influence. After two years, Webb visits Shell Beach and convinces Buddy to come home. Buddy decompresses between worlds for a time in Webb's cabin, philosophizing about music, and desperately missing Robin. He returns home to find his old band mate, Willy Cornish moved in with Nora and joins them. Buddy reestablishes relations with his children and after an attempt at platonic love, has sex with Nora. She tells him that she hates Bellocq for changing his personality.

On his fifth day home, Buddy joins the Henry Allen Sr. Brass Band for a parade. Everyone turns out to see and hear him. During the march, Buddy imagines a woman dancing to his notes, anticipating him constantly, and then feels blood spurting from broken throat vessels as he blows his coronet too hard. Buddy is patched up but then institutionalized for 24 years as a schizophrenic. Life is brutal and sterile, broken only occasionally by a few incidents of high drama. For a while Buddy barbers fellow inmates but then turns within and stops communicating. He dies and is buried in a unmarked grave. Searching for information about his life and career, the anonymous narrator finds that Buddy is forgotten. One photograph survives but no music, for he refuses to be recorded or to accept any fame.

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