Praise for A Taste for Chaos
A smart blend of psychology, philosophy and literary history.... A tour de force of reading in the fields of literary theory and history befitting a George Steiner or Erich Auerbach.
A Taste for Chaos is a stunner of a bookâ€”smart, jarring, innovative, witty, provocative, wise, and beautifully written. As a sustained and unified work of literary analysis, this book is nothing short of dazzling, both in its meticulously structured central argument and in its intricate exploration of the artistic tensions between order and disorder, reason and intuition, design and improvisation. Not only is this a book about the artistic endeavor, but it is also a work of art in its own right.
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato
A Taste for Chaos provides a sweeping view of the complex history of the notion of artistic spontaneity. Packed with erudition and references ranging from Lucretius to James Brown, and written with reader-friendly clarity, Fertel’s book is a lively examination of the centuries-old debate between the improvisers and the deliberators. This detailed labor of love deserves its place on any serious bookshelf devoted to literary study or the history of ideas.
Billy Collins, Poet Laureate; Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems
Fertel has Erasmus jamming with Jung and Louis Armstrong, and you can almost tap your foot to it.
Roy Blount, Alphabet Juice
The magnificent chapter on Hermes and Odysseus is alone worth the price of the entire volume.
Stanley Lombardo, Prof. Emeritus of Classics, Univ. of Kansas; translator of The Iliad and Odyssey
Randy Fertel leads us on a brilliant literary exploration of improvisation and the art of appearing spontaneous. From Louis Armstrong to Derrida, Twain to Jung to Joyce, he shows how order emerges from chaos. It’s a delightful and fascinating book, written with a jazz-like enthusiasm.
Walter Isaacson, CEO, Aspen Institute; author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs
A Taste for Chaos, is both important and rich with a perceptive imagination; it is a good match to Isaacson's The Innovators, and stands tall as another huge and hand-carved broom that removes so much dust from the floors of the academy. Fertel is about stepping up to the issue and using his head for much more than a hat rack.
Stanley Crouch, Kansas City Lightning and Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz
A highly personal tour de force of literary criticism that got me thinking in totally new ways about improvisation, spontaneity, and inventionâ€”the tools of the trade for any jazz musician.
Tom Sancton, clarinetist; Song For My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White
A Taste for Chaos is smart, wide ranging, full of surprises, and insightful. It is both impressive and a delight to read. As a work that is wide ranging, bringing together both insight and illumination of the disparate, it’s the kind of scholarship I most admire.
David Lynn, editor of The Kenyon Review
I started reading New Orleanian Randy Fertel’s journey through the landscape of literary improvisation with a CD of Louis Armstrong’s trumpet playing softly. Gradually I realized that Louis was Fertel’s exemplar rather than simple accompanist, and that all those intimidating, august, marble-busted great men of lettersâ€”Rabelais, Milton, Joyce, Jung, and so onâ€”had also been sitting up too late, smoking, working out their riffs. Who knew? There’s a new and unanticipated note on every page of Fertel’s exciting book.
Richard Rabinowitz, Revolution!: The Atlantic World Reborn
There’s nothing quite like A Taste for Chaos: a cool, analytic, and deeply insightful book about improvisation and chaos. Fertel argues that craft and ‘reason’s click clack’ lead nowhere without spontaneity. Through intriguing examples gleaned from literature and literary criticism, he leads us to the heart of creativity.
Fred Starr, Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age and Bamboula!: The Life and Times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk
If jazz, like love, has its own inner logic, why shouldn’t it have taken Randy Fertel four decades to riff through all our notionsâ€”and then someâ€”of what it means to be an improvisational literary artist? Seeming contradictions are anywhere you find them, and serious work always has its own timetable.
Paul Hendrickson, National Book Critics Circle Award; Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost
I love this book. A Taste for Chaos had me at: ‘evaluation is one of the least interesting things we can do with spontaneity.’ Fertel opens the mysterious doorway of ‘spontaneous creation’ and shows me something clear, new, and useful on every page. Fertel is learned and light, reliable and readable, provocative and pleasurable. Even in his writing style he has caught the vitality of spontaneous creation, including some dazzling forays, yet with the authoritative voice academics demand.
Eric Booth, The Everyday Work of Art and The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible
In A Taste for Chaos Randy Fertel takes us deep into the substrata of the literary imagination and the creative process, linking such seemingly disparate minds as James Joyce’s and Louis Armstrong’s. It’s a fascinating exposition of the mysteries and benefits of improvisation.
Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University; New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History
An inspiring book, as eccentric as its subject. It answers the question why some people are wonderfully, surprisingly creative (and why the rest of us are ploddingly predictable trudgers). Bravo, Fertel!
Bill Buford, Heat and Among the Thugs: The Experience, and the Seduction, of Crowd Violence
Fertel’s writing is elegant and his undertaking impressive in scope and ambition, an interesting blend of close reading and panoramic vision.
Amy Ziering, director/producer of the film Derrida