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Three Days Before the Shooting . . . Hardcover – Jan 26 2010
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"Ralph Ellison's generosity, humor, and nimble language are, of course, on display in Juneteenth, but it is his vigorous intellect that rules the novel. A majestic narrative concept." --Toni Morrison
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Ralph Ellison (1914–94) was born in Oklahoma and trained as a musician at Tuskegee Institute from 1933 to 1936, at which time a visit to New York and a meeting with Richard Wright led to his first attempts at fiction. Invisible Man won the National Book Award. Appointed to the Academy of American Arts and Letters in 1964, Ellison taught at several institutions, including Bard College, the University of Chicago, and New York University, where he was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities.
John F. Callahan is Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His writings include a novel, A Man You Could Love. He is the editor of the Modern Library edition of The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison and is the literary executor of Ralph Ellison’s estate.
Adam Bradley is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of the forthcoming Ralph Ellison–in–Progress, a critical study of Ellison’s unfinished second novel.
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Yet now we have "Three Days Before the Shooting," a massive volume that compiles all the lengthy interlocking segments of the manuscript, along with other fragmentary alternate versions of the story. Editors John F. Callahan and Adam Bradley have performed a labor of love, devotion and mind-numbing scholarship: They have combed through Ellison's countless handwritten papers and computer discs to knit together a coherent, cohesive and lumberingly powerful book by one of the United States' preeminent writers.
The story involves the assassination of a race-baiting U.S. senator with a peculiar past. As a "little boy of indefinite race," Senator Sunraider was raised in rural Georgia by Alonzo Hickman, a one-time jazz player turned preacher. Well, that's the basic set-up of the story, anyway. What we actually have is a turning, twisting narrative that can't stop itself from spiraling outward to other characters, other voices, till the story begins to evoke a tapestry of 20th century American passions and madness -- a vast cloth with holes in the weaving whose ragged thread ends were never tied off.
Usually we speak of the architecture of a novel. With "Three Days Before the Shooting... ," it is possible to talk of its archeology: the '50s, with its basic plot outline and its references to "Negroes" and "that white Cadillac convertible;" the '60s, when Ellison grew less sure of his world and more defiant toward it; the '70s and '80s, when the novel's setting, now historical, became once again easier to delineate.
Listen to a few short horn bursts:
"`So she started trying to dance and, gen'lmens, it was like what they call a 'ca'astrofee.' Juiced as she was and with all those goldbacks hanging around her belly, she was like somebody made out of soft rubber and no bones."
"He lay on his back, looking up through the turbulent space to where the bullet-smashed chandelier, swinging gently under the impact of its shattering, created a watery distortion
I think that the reader, familiar with Ellison, will find a different tone in this book. This is more serious, a little less of the not-quite-surrealistic Ellison that sometimes is present in IVM. While some of the scenes are indeed raucous and outright hysterical, one, nevertheless, sees a perhaps more serious intent in the whole.
While the length is initially intimidating, the volume is excellently bound. As it emerges episodically, but not picaresquely, the story is so fascinating as to make the volume difficult to put aside, even for sleep.
someone to publish Mr. Ellison's unfinished manuscript.. I only wish they would have
published it just as it existed.. in his writing.. just photographed the whole thing.
Though I have it on my shelf, I had refused to read Juneteenth because he didn't put it
out.. and someone else had decided what he meant.. I would rather have this 1100 page
monster than have someone elses idea of what he meant.. anyway.. I got it!! finally and
I'm enjoying it.. I only hope the rest of his writings are also published..