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John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead
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John Henry Days (2001)

by Colson Whitehead

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5921225,649 (3.61)33
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad Colson Whitehead's triumphant novel is on one level a multifaceted retelling of the story of John Henry, the black steel-driver who died outracing a machine designed to replace him. On another level it's the story of a disaffected, middle-aged black journalist on a mission to set a record for junketeering who attends the annual John Henry Days festival. It is also a high-velocity thrill ride through the tunnel where American legend gives way to American pop culture, replete with p. r. flacks, stamp collectors, blues men , and turn-of-the-century song pluggers. John Henry Days is an acrobatic, intellectually dazzling, and laugh-out-loud funny book that will be read and talked about for years to come.… (more)

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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Disappointing after the excellent Intuitionist. ( )
  CSRodgers | Aug 10, 2014 |
A look at the variations on the legend of John Henry and how it has affected people, black and white. Best part is the description of the life of a journalistic junketeer. Earlier work than "Apex Hides the Hurt," and less disciplined and tight, but always interesting.

Read more reviews at http://thegrimreader.blogspot.com ( )
  nohrt4me2 | Sep 9, 2013 |
I'm either several years too late reading this book, or several years too early—Whitehead's descriptions of the early dotcom boom and its accompanying technology, of journalists (sorry, "journalists") on pointless junkets, while rendered in some wonderful prose, now seems dated. I don't think enough time has passed for descriptions of how a bot works, or how early search engines were compiled, to have acquired some sort of retro nostalgia.

This, of course, is a quibble which Whitehead couldn't necessarily have foreseen or done much about—that's just how things go. What he could have done, however, was to get his editor to do one more pass through John Henry Days. I found the first quarter to a third of the book to be immensely readable, full of wry humour and snapping prose. As the book wore on, though, it all became a little leaden, and some of the turns of phrase didn't make sense if you stopped to think about it—there was more than a hint of the overwritten about it. I got why some of the chapters tracing John Henry's impact during the years since his death were necessary and there; others, though, made it seem as if Whitehead, like J. Sutter, were being paid a dollar a word in order to get across the Grand Central Revelation which anyone would have realised fairly quickly.

This is not to say that John Henry Days is a bad book. I read large parts of it with pleasure, and would certainly try other books by Whitehead, but I would much rather have read a shorter novel he'd written about John Henry himself. I feel that such a book wouldn't have tried so hard to be More Hip and Ironic than Thou. ( )
  siriaeve | Feb 6, 2012 |
I admired the creativity of the book but it was a slow slog. I enjoyed his latest(Sag Harbor) much more. This was a book that I read because of the authors reputation. I will try to read more by him, but would not recommend this book when compared to Sag Harbor ( )
  nivramkoorb | Jun 30, 2011 |
and a half. I really like Colson Whitehead, and the Intuitionist was great (I want a copy of "Theoretical Elevators"), but I want to arbitrarily only give John Henry Days 3.5 stars just because. Whitehead's thoughts on prime rib in this book closely mirror my own, hence the half star. ( )
  sherief | Apr 26, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Whitehead, Colsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Testa, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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