Cover image for No matter how much you promise to cook or pay the rent you blew it cauze Bill Bailey ain't never coming home again
No matter how much you promise to cook or pay the rent you blew it cauze Bill Bailey ain't never coming home again
Vega, Eduardo, 1938-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 638 pages ; 24 cm
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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An epic novel of jazz, race and the effects of war on an American family This sweeping drama of intimately connected families --black, white, and Latino-- boldly conjures up the ever-shifting cultural mosaic that is America. At its heart is VidamÍa Farrell, half Puerto Rican, half Irish, who sets out in search of the father she has never known. Her journey takes her from her affluent home to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where her father Billy Farrell now lives with his second family. Once a gifted jazz pianist, Billy lost two fingers in the Vietnam War and has since shut himself off from jazz. In this powerful modern odyssey, VidamÍa struggles to bring her father back to the world of jazz. Her quest gives her a new understanding of family, particularly through her half-sisters Fawn, a lonely young poet plagued with a secret, and Cookie, a sassy, streetsmart homegirl who happens to be "white." And when VidamÍa becomes involved with a young African-American jazz saxophonist, she is forced to explore her own complex roots, along with the dizzying contradictions of race etched in the American psyche. Edgardo Vega YunquÉ vividly captures the myriad voices of our American idiom like a virtuoso spinning out a series of expanding riffs, by turns lyrical, deadly, flippant, witty, and haunting.

Author Notes

Author Edgardo Vega Yunqué was born in Cidra, Puerto Rico in 1936. He moved to New York with his family in 1949 and joined the Air Force after finishing high school. He attended Santa Monica College and New York University. His first short story, Wild Horses, was published in Nuestro magazine in 1977 and his first novel, The Comeback, was published in 1985. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote over 15 novels and 3 collections of short stories including Mendoza's Dreams, Casuality Report, Blood Fugues, and The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. He founded the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center and was its director from 1993 to 2000. He died on August 25, 2008 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Like its oversize title, this is the kind of novel that refuses to leave anything out. Vega Yunque seems determined to take D. H. Lawrence at his word and produce the bright book of life, the whole messy sprawl of living and dying. He fails, of course, but in failing, he produces an almost hypnotically readable novel--about jazz, about race, about coming-of-age, and above all, about New York. The central character is Vidamia Farrell, half Puerto Rican, half Irish, who starts the book by looking for her father, then tries to save him, and along the way, attempts to understand all there is to understand about love, music, and racism. A tall order for a teenager, even an absurdly precocious one, so it's no surprise she needs a little help. Vega Yunque gives it to her in the form of a plethora of other characters and stories, stretching from Manhattan's East Village to Puerto Rico and the Appalachians and encompassing cameos from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Darwin. The heart of the story, though, is Vidamia and her Irish father, Billy, piano prodigy and Vietnam vet, tortured by memories of the war and the wound that cost him his jazz career. When Vega Yunque isn't climbing on his own soapbox to declaim, Thackeray-like, on the virtues and shortcomings of his characters, he's propping those same characters up on their own soapboxes. But just as one's tolerance for such overweening verbiage grows thin, along comes a moment of such honest, wrenching emotion, free of all artifice, that we shrug our shoulders and plow on. Vega Yunque is an infuriating, utterly undisciplined writer, but he may just be the Thomas Wolfe of the multicultural twenty-first century. --Bill Ott Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Yunque's sprawling, old-fashioned debut, a multigenerational melting-pot epic set in New York City in the 1980s, is populated by a host of characters with patchwork identities: white, Puerto Rican, black, rich, poor. At the center of the tangled web is Puerto Rican-Irish Vidamia Farrell, daughter of upwardly mobile Elsa Santiago and Vietnam War vet Billy Farrell. Vidamia meets her father for the first time when she is 12 and discovers that she has two families: she lives with her strict mother and CPA stepfather in an affluent New York suburb, but she is powerfully drawn to her father's bohemian household on Manhattan's rough Lower East Side. Her father is a former jazz pianist whose career was cut short by the war, which cost him two fingers and his sanity. Vidamia is fascinated by his story and becomes fast friends with her stepsister Cookie, a dazzlingly blonde homegirl; when she is almost 17, she falls in love with Wyndell Ross, a black saxophonist. A multitude of secondary characters are fully developed: Elsa, Vidamia's mother, who struggles to leave the barrio behind; Fawn, Cookie's doomed poet sister; Maud, Billy's bar-owning Irish mother. The author's storytelling is unapologetically sentimental and rambling; his loving depiction of New York's Puerto Rican subculture reflects the full spectrum of city life. A brutal rape and a violent act of retaliation bring the novel to a sobering close, but Yunqu? (The Comeback, etc.) leaves his readers with a sense of hope and hard-won harmony. (Oct.) Forecast: Yunqu? has long been a fixture on the New York underground literary circuit. The publisher clearly intends for this to be his breakout book, and it does have populist appeal, though some may find its earnest racial explorations dated. Author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Half Puerto Rican and half Irish, Vidam!a Farrell seeks out her long-lost father, a jazz pianist who abandoned music when his hands were maimed in Vietnam. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.