Crepuscule W/ Nellie by Joe Milazzo


ISBN: 978-1-937865-97-9
402 pages
Release Date: February 1, 2018
Second Edition

#RECURRENT / Civil Coping Mechanisms

Buy from Bookshop
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes & Noble
Publicity Interest
Read Excerpt
Teaching Guide


From the introduction by Robin Myrick:

With music, however, it’s all about the version — how a piece translates and is translated in the particular moment of inception, of recording, of the gig. So while there are as many versions of Monk’s story as there are covers of his compositions, the central risk in imagining the lives of Monk, Nica, and Nellie today is that those who would celebrate him as the elite trophy mold for troubled brilliance, and peg Nellie and Nica as simply the women behind the great man, have largely succeeded in making stock characters out of them already. In this respect, Crepuscule W/ Nellie attempts to enter a conversation that has been skewed and reframed for as long as journalists, biographers, academics, and fans have been trying to figure Monk out, or claiming to have a handle on his life and career.


As a version, this is the hidden track found in the parallel groove of the record, not the chord chart from the fake book by which we might learn to reconstruct Monk ourselves. This book is not a residency with the facts, or an attempt to put anything to bed when it comes to the symbiosis and duality of the world Monk existed in with Nellie and Nica. Nor is this jazz history run through the Ken Burns Photoshop filter for value-added grace or floaty, sepia-toned homage. This is an entirely different kind of being there, imagining there.


This is a book by which you will be charmed and confronted and ultimately tempted, and the abundance of your inquiry and the bread crumbs dropped by your search party cannot be cataloged or encompassed in a modest introduction such as this. It’s a story, not the story. It is made from diary entries, telephone calls, scenes, conversations, film negatives, recording masters, cartons, folders, handbills, all of which will enrobe you and strand you in the moment, and leave you not where you may expect. Yet Crepuscule W/ Nellie is not an improvisation. It’s as precise as it is surprising, capable of suspending time and holding it faithfully for the length of a perfect solo or one devastating note.

The challenge in writing on behalf of Joe Milazzo’s fiction is finding the language to convey how special it is, but let us begin with audacious and fearless, lyrical and brilliant, superbly imaginative and assuredly accomplished — one of tomorrow’s great novelists on the cusp of his moment.
—Steve Erickson, Author of Zeroville and Our Ecstatic Days

Milazzo dug this lost recording of the Monk/Monk/Pannonica trio—dug as in figured, as in got into, as in exhumed—out that ‘dustbin’ folks talk about. And since the composition called Crepuscule W/ Nellie is this time a story storying history, the good mess Milazzo so expertly messes with alchemizes the linguistic odds-and-ends that make a vernacular both high-falluting and low-down; the factual scraps that member a fiction into a rich speculation; and the individuals ignored so long they must come back to us in books. Our author has given us a fascinating one. Dig it, dig it, dig it.
—Douglas Kearney, Author of The Black Automaton & PATTER

Crepuscule w/ Nellie is dilucule w/ Joe: Milazzo’s book woke me up and shook me, by making the new through homage.

—Joshua Cohen, Author of Moving Kings

A polyvocal narrative that’s part Faulkner à la midcentury Manhattan’s jazz epicenters, part early 90’s avant-pop crossed with Black Mountain poetics, and part ghost, Joe Milazzo’s genre-bending Crepuscule W/ Nellie boldly re-imagines the relationship between fact and fiction.
—Claire Donato, Author of Burial

Crepuscule With Nellie is a heartfelt and cunning fictional glimpse into the genius of Thelonius Monk, his music, and those closest to him. It is experimental and challenging yet deeply human, a book I keep close and find inspiration in. Joe Milazzo’s talent is evident in how he masterfully handles language and structure. I absolutely love this book.”

Brandon Hobson, author of Deep Ellum

Joe Milazzo’s Crepuscule W/ Nellie is a blast. So rarely do we get a novel this momentous, challenging, ambitious—Crepuscule W/ Nellie transcends expectation. I’m moved by the fierce acuity of the maximalist prose, never less than adroit and vital as it parses a famous triangle between the maestro, Thelonious Monk, his wife Nellie, and the Bebop Baroness, Panonica de Koenigswarter, the most storied music patron of the 20th century. Triangulating the infinite personal declensions between struggling black musicians and the white patrons, between the women and their men, Joe Milazzo’s language brilliantly echolocates that essentially American distance, sounding out an American loneliness that is with us still.
—Sesshu Foster, Author of World Ball Notebook & Atomik Aztex

… [A] bountifully generative crumbling-down. Crepuscule reminds vividly of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, where motion is a collapse that does nothing but give back form to that very motion.
—Achraf A. El Bahi

Joe Milazzo’s Crepuscule W/ Nellie takes as its great and original subject a care-giver’s, literally home-maker’s immensely improvising relation to a creative genius, a demanding, needy, powerful, enigmatic, often disappointing man who was her husband. That is what this long, intimate, painfully American, many-voiced rumination of a novel is about—though also, and indirectly, about much that is implied by its title, which was first that of Thelonious Monk’s shortest major composition, one of my favorites, with its outer, measured clarity and inner, off-balance infinities and shadows. Has Milazzo added the lyrics? I think rather that he has written a deep, interior book about lives that included jazz and everything else. A book that will last.
—Joseph McElroy, Author of Cannonball & Women and Men

There are books we read to master and books we read to be mastered by: this book, Crepuscule W/ Nellie, by Joe Milazzo, is of the latter sort, and, if you’re comfortable enough with yourself to let go of your notions of the way things are for the time it takes to read it, this book may well puncture a hole in your notions of the way things ought to be. Ours is the era of the scattered, the angry, the bewildered, the disingenuous. We wear our inattentiveness proudly and insist it be pandered to, or else. Our opinions, whatever, are never less than facts. This novel isn’t an antidote to these ills. It’s a light in the darkness they make. There are those of us who know we need a book like this and those who will know it the moment we see it. I wish profanely that it find us all, and then some, too.
D. Foy, author of Patricide and Absolutely Golden

JOE MILAZZO is a writer, editor, educator, and designer. He is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie (Jaded Ibis Press) and two collections of poetry: The Habiliments (Apostrophe Books) and the forthcoming Of All Places In This Place Of All Places. His writings have appeared in Black Clock, Black Warrior Review, BOMB, The Collagist, Prelude, Tammy, and elsewhere. He co-edits the online interdisciplinary arts journal [out of nothing], is a Contributing Editor at Entropy, curates the Other People’s Poetry reading series, and is also the proprietor of Imipolex Press. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, where he was born and raised. Learn more at