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John Henry Days : a novel

by Whitehead, Colson, 1969-

Format: Print Book 2001
Availability: Available at 2 Libraries 2 of 3 copies
Available (2)
Location Collection Call #
CLP - Main Library Third Floor - Fiction (Please Ask for Assistance) FICTION Whitehea
Location  CLP - Main Library
 
Collection  Third Floor - Fiction (Please Ask for Assistance)
 
Call Number  FICTION Whitehea
 
 
Wilkinsburg Public Library Fiction FIC WHI AAF
Location  Wilkinsburg Public Library
 
Collection  Fiction
 
Call Number  FIC WHI AAF
 
 
 
Unavailable (1)
Location Collection Status
Mt. Lebanon Public Library Fiction CHECKED OUT
Location  Mt. Lebanon Public Library
 
Collection  Fiction
 
Status  CHECKED OUT
 
 
Summary
In a glowing review of Colson Whitehead's first novel,The Intuitionist, theNew York Times Book Reviewconcluded, "Literary reputations may not always rise and fall as predictably as elevators, but if there's any justice in the world of fiction, Colson Whitehead's should be heading toward the upper floors." WithJohn Henry Days, Colson Whitehead delivers on the promise of his critically acclaimed debut in a magnificent new novel: a retelling of the legend of John Henry that sweeps across generations and cultures in a stunning, hilarious, and unsettling portrait of American society. Immortalized in folk ballads, John Henry has been a favorite American hero since the mid-nineteenth century. According to legend, John Henry, a black laborer for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, was a man of superhuman strength and stamina. He proved his mettle in a contest with a steam drill, only to die of exhaustion moments after his triumph. InJohn Henry Days, Colson Whitehead transforms the simple ballad into a contrapuntal masterpiece. The narrative revolves around the story of J. Sutter, a young black journalist. Sutter is a "junketeer," a freeloading hack who roams from one publicity event to another, abusing his expense account and mooching as much as possible. It is 1996, and an assignment for a travel Web site takes Sutter to West Virginia for the first annual "John Henry Days" festival, a celebration of a new U.S. postal stamp honoring John Henry. And there the real story of John Henry emerges in graceful counterpoint to Sutter's thoroughly modern adventure. As he explores the parallels between the lives of these two black men, and between the Industrial Age, which literally killed John Henry, and the Digital Age that is destroying J. Sutter's soul, Whitehead adds multiple dimensions to the myth of the steel-driving man. And in dazzling set pieces, he traces the evolution of the famous ballad over the past century.John Henry Daysis a novel of extraordinary scope and mythic power that juxtaposes history and popular culture, the blatant bigotry of the past with the more insidious racism of the present, and laugh-out-loud humor with unforgettable poignancy.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Whitehead's accomplished debut, The Intuitionist (1998), earned him a Whiting Writers' Award, and he now presents an even more sagacious tale, an inventive, funny, and bittersweet inquiry into the significance of folk hero John Henry. An African American rail worker who allegedly triumphed over a steam-powered drill in a contest of man against machine only to die on the spot in a dramatic foreshadowing of the impact of the Industrial Revolution, Henry is the subject of a 1996 commemorative stamp that is about to be unveiled at an elaborate celebration in Talcott, West Virginia. A gaggle of sharp-tongued, mercenary New York hacks are on the scene, including J. Sutter. The only black writer present, he is staging a contest of his own by going for a record of back-to-back press junkets. Also in attendance is Pamela Street, whose late father obsessively collected John Henry memorabilia. Looping back in time, Whitehead brings John Henry himself into the mix, as well as an intriguing set of characters inspired by his story, including the creator of "The Ballad of John Henry" and Paul Robeson, who played John Henry on Broadway. Masterfully composed and full of myth and magic, Whitehead's great American novel considers such dualities as nature and civilization, legend and history, black and white, and altruism and greed, while deftly skewering the absurdities of the information age. Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Death knells toll alike at the dawn of the machine age and the digital age, proclaiming an exhausted general collapse in this impressive, multilayered second novel by Whitehead (The Intuitionist). Seizing on the story of American folk hero John Henry, the black railroad worker who beat a steam drill in a one-on-one contest and died in the act, Whitehead juxtaposes it with the soulless saga of 21st-century freelance writer J. Sutter, member of a junketeering tribe whose mores and speech are rendered with anthropological enthusiasm. J. and his fellow junketeers notably Dave Brown, a former gonzo Rolling Stone journalist whose best days were in the late '60s, and jittery One Eye, whose paranoia infects J. descend on Talcott, W.Va., John Henry's supposed resting ground, to report on the U.S. Postal Service's release of a commemorative John Henry stamp. They coincide there with Pamela Street, the daughter of a deceased John Henry obsessive who opened a mad private museum in Harlem to celebrate the man, and Alphonse Miggs, a collector specializing in train stamps, whose secret agenda involves his newly purchased pistol. The debased countercultural cynicism of the junketeers, J.'s compulsive collection of factoids and receipts to fuel the print media machine, and the warped nostalgic longings of Pamela and Alphonse are funneled into a tornado-like narrative storm, bits and pieces of the John Henry myth spinning in the updraft. Whitehead (recipient of a 2000 Whiting Writers' Award) has the early DeLillo's sense for the sinister underside of Americana, combined with historical consciousness of the African-American middle-class in the post-civil rights era. Smart, learned and soaringly ambitious, his second novel consolidates his position as one of the leading writers of serious fiction of his generation. (May 15) Forecast: Strong reviews, word-of-mouth, a national reading tour and comparisons to DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen and other writers of novels on the large scale (perhaps by the junketeer manufacturers of buzz Whitehead captures so ably but that's only appropriate) will do much for this important, deserving work. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Henry, John -- (Legendary character) -- Fiction.
African American journalists -- Fiction.
Race relations -- Fiction.
Racism -- Fiction.
West Virginia -- Fiction.
Publisher New York :Doubleday,2001
Edition 1st ed.
Language English
Description 389 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN 0385498195
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