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Three Days Before the Shooting . . . [Hardcover]

Ralph Ellison , John Callahan , Adam Bradley

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Book Description

Jan. 26 2010 Modern Library
At his death in 1994, Ralph Ellison left behind roughly two thousand pages of his unfinished second novel, which he had spent nearly four decades writing. Long awaited, it was to have been the work Ellison intended to follow his masterpiece, Invisible Man. Five years later, Random House published Juneteenth, drawn from the central narrative of Ellison’s unfinished epic.

Three Days Before the Shooting . . . gathers together in one volume, for the first time, all the parts of that planned opus, including three major sequences never before published. Set in the frame of a deathbed vigil, the story is a gripping multigenerational saga centered on the assassination of the controversial, race-baiting U.S. senator Adam Sunraider, who’s being tended to by “Daddy” Hickman, the elderly black jazz musician turned preacher who raised the orphan Sunraider as a light-skinned black in rural Georgia. Presented in their unexpurgated, provisional state, the narrative sequences form a deeply poetic, moving, and profoundly entertaining book, brimming with humor and tension, composed in Ellison’s magical jazz-inspired prose style and marked by his incomparable ear for vernacular speech.

Beyond its richly compelling narratives, Three Days Before the Shooting . . . is perhaps most notable for its extraordinary insight into the creative process of one of this country’s greatest writers. In various stages of composition and revision, its typescripts and computer files testify to Ellison’s achievement and struggle with his material from the mid-1950s until his death forty years later. Three Days Before the Shooting . . . is an essential, fascinating piece of Ralph Ellison’s legacy, and its publication is to be welcomed as a major event for American arts and letters.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1136 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (Jan. 26 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375759530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375759536
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 5.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 Kg
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,619,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading Feb. 10 2010
By M. Kramer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm about half way through this wonderful collection. This is a very frustrating book because you can see how close Ellson got to finishing what would have been his masterpiece. It reminds me of All the Kings Men, it's that good. It's snowing outside. No school. Coffee. An unfinished epic. Life is good.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Literary jazz riff four decades in the making June 19 2010
By E Bronstein - Published on
Ralph Ellison, it turns out, lived the plot of a mid-'60s novel: a little known author and musician, he published his first book at the age of 39. "Invisible Man" was both critically acclaimed and a bestseller. Ellison won the National Book Award, the first black writer to be awarded the most prestigious award in American literature. Now world-famous, Ellison announced in interviews that he had already begun work on his follow-up novel. For the next four decades he labored on that second novel - but he died in 1994 at the age of 80, and the literary waiting game ended too: His anxiously awaited second work of fiction would never be finished, never be published.

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
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why read an "incomplete" novel especially one so long? Dec 19 2011
By Kenneth A. Pfeifer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Those who have read IVM have hungered forever for more Ellison. The problem was that he never finished his second novel. This fact (and its length) dissuaded me from even thinking about reading "Three Days." Let me assure you that it is a must read, if for nothing else than for "Bliss's Birth," one of the most moving sections of literature that I have every read. While the novel is, in fact, "incomplete," much of its incompleteness concerns the order of episodes and their transitions. The story is complete enough for even a careless reader to get a fantastic understanding of what was intended. I initially was persuaded to try this read by reading Adam Bradley's "Ellison in Progress" also another amazing read. This, coupled with "Juneteenth" and its hints from the Ellison archives were enough to convince me to give it a try. I was not disappointed. The fact that it is not finished and polished and the fact that some scenes are given in different drafts does not encumber the volume, and one must read the entire volume; it's definitely worth it.
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.
13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally, it's in my hands. Jan. 27 2010
By James Jones, Jr. - Published on
Finally finally finally.. it's in my hands. I have been waiting for years and years for
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..

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful edits Feb. 9 2013
By happy hair - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent stories and great job at compiling all of Ellison's fragments into a cohesive narrative. I highly recommend this book to anyone.

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