"[A]n extraordinary book, a work of staggering virtuosity. With its publication, a giant world of literature has just grown twice as tall."--Newsday
From Ralph Ellison--author of the classic novel of African-American experience, Invisible Man--the long-awaited second novel. Here is the master of American vernacular--the rhythms of jazz and gospel and ordinary speech--at the height of his powers, telling a powerful, evocative tale of a prodigal of the twentieth century.
"Tell me what happened while there's still time," demands the dying Senator Adam Sunraider to the itinerate Negro preacher whom he calls Daddy Hickman. As a young man, Sunraider was Bliss, an orphan taken in by Hickman and raised to be a preacher like himself. Bliss's history encompasses the joys of young southern boyhood; bucolic days as a filmmaker, lovemaking in a field in the Oklahoma sun. And behind it all lies a mystery: how did this chosen child become the man who would deny everything to achieve his goals? Brilliantly crafted, moving, wise, Juneteenth is the work of an American master.
The publication of this behemoth compilation of Ellison's efforts toward his never-finished second novel is assuredly an event readers will find much of what the author of Invisible Man labored over for decades, and from which Juneteenth was extracted. With multiple versions of and fragments from the massive work (assembled by editors John F. Callahan and Adam Bradley), this edition will have the greatest appeal to Ellison enthusiasts and scholars, as well as to readers interested in the punishing process of novelistic composition. This volume contains countless passages of breathtaking prose, touching upon America and its mystic motto of national purpose violently aflutter. The story that weaves through these drafts centers on the relationship between Alonzo Hickman, a black preacher, and the race-baiting senator raised by Hickman Adam Sunraider, of ambiguous race, living as a white man and the object of an assassination plot. The sense of struggle and chaos, in terms of the nation's impossible desires and Ellison's creative drive, is chillingly palpable throughout. The editors have performed a true feat of literary archeology in gathering an astounding bulk of prose that's highly attuned to the deeply divided American condition.