The Horn is John Clellon Holmes’s brilliant, troubling testament to jazz. Loosely based on the lives and careers of jazz musicians Holmes admired, the book employs the narrative structure of tragic drama, which is defined by the Aristotelian rules of unity of action. Although it drifts between a number of musicians’ apartments and Harlem bars, The Horn is essentially set within the same scene, as proposed by Aristotle. In June 1977, Holmes discussed his specific aims in the novel with the young academic Tim Hunt. A month later, he wrote to Richard K. Ardinger, who had become interested in the Beat Generation as a student and was compiling Holmes’s bibliography, to talk about the conception of the novel. Two of the characters in The Horn are Jack Kerouac and Holmes himself. At its release, the novel received mostly moderate reviews from the mainstream press, but was acclaimed by knowledgeable critics with a close connection with jazz, such as Ralph Gleason in San Francisco and Studs Terkel in Chicago.
Keywords: jazz, The Horn, John Clellon Holmes, jazz musicians, Tim Hunt, Richard K. Ardinger, Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, Ralph Gleason, Studs Terkel