Larry Karp says he's not a musicologist, but he surely knows a lot about music. His ragtime trilogy (The Ragtime Kid, The King of Ragtime, and Ragtime Fool) is set during the first 50 years of the 20th century. The books follow the fictional adventures of Brun Campbell and the man who inspired him, Scott Joplin, a real figure and iconic ragtime pianist and composer.
Ragtime Fool takes place in 1951 at the real-life Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri. (Larry had a great time doing research at another ragtime festival in Sacramento, California.) A much older Brun Campbell, the "Ragtime Kid" of the first book in the series, wants to help establish a Scott Joplin museum, but runs afoul of some Klansmen.
Larry's talk inspired a lively discussion in the audience about segregation in Portland, many reminiscing about how this occurred relatively recently in Portland's history.
We got mini lessons in the elements of ragtime -- especially in how it was played a lot slower than subsequent jazz pianists played it -- and in the life of Scott Joplin. Did you know Joplin wrote an opera? Treemonisha's message is that black people need to become educated.
Larry's knowledge and obvious love of the genre were apparent.