The novel deliberately mirrors the music of its title, with various characters "improvising" solo compositions that fit together to create a whole work. The tone of the novel also shifts with these compositions, from bluesy laments to up beat, sensual ragtime. The novel also utilizes the call and response style of Jazz music, allowing the characters to explore the same events from different perspectives.
This book utilizes the style of "untrustworthy narrators", in which reality is altered slightly by the storyteller's emotions and perspective. Narration switches every so often to the viewpoint of various characters, inanimate objects, and even concepts. The book's final narrator is widely believed to be Morrison or perhaps the book itself.
Two of the main themes of the novel are purgatory and Jazz music.