Throughout his career Gaines has brought life to his characters and the places where his fiction unravels. Just as the reporter requested a picture of Miss Jane Pitman, many have gone to the map in an attempt to locate Bayonne, Louisiana . . . another fictional but life like creation of the griot Ernest James Gaines. Few writers, who have achieved acclaim, are embedded in their cultural past with an eye on the future. Seldom do successful novelists teach due to love of community. Rare does the celebrity scribe pay homage to his ancestors. Those that do are not merely bestselling authors, but griots.
When one begins reading ‘Mozart and Leadbelly’ it becomes obvious that instructions for living a writer’s life are being given. The reader is told to: expect rejection, read, never stop writing well, value past life experiences, find the profound in the simple, love and learn from elders, and “howl” out against injustice. Perhaps, these instructions are not limited to writers but should be considered as advice from a griot to all of his community. The work, ‘Mozart and Leadbelly,’ is dived into two sections; the first being personal essays that give insight into this great American talent, and the second being short stories which are theme and place driven. Any student of literature or life would be well served by reading this book.