Before Carl Van Vechten's later careers--as the first dance critic in America, as a best-selling novelist during the Jazz Age of the Twenties, as the leading white champion of African American arts and letters, and as a celebrity photographer--he was Assistant Music Critic for the New York Times (1906-13). Subsequently, he wrote seven volumes of lively and often audacious essays on musical subjects.
First published in 1925, the novel centers around a wide cast of characters whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mysterious Gunnar O'Grady in 1920s New York. The book uniquely explores the true meaning of happiness and the eternal search for self-identity, through humorous, thoughtful, and often poignant characters.
Van Vechten wrote lively and often audacious essays on musical subjects. He was first to offer serious assessments of the music of Stravinsky, Erik Satie, Gershwin, and the operas of Richard Stauss. He wrote the earliest study in America of the music of Spain. He was first to advocate musical scores for movies. He contended that ragtime and jazz were the only uniquely American music.