John Henry Days

Colson Whitehead

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John Henry Days

John Henry Days John Henry Days is a novel of extraordinary scope and mythic power Recognised as one of the novels of it establishes Colson Whitehead as one of the pre eminent young American writers of our time

  • Title: John Henry Days
  • Author: Colson Whitehead
  • ISBN: 9781841155708
  • Page: 283
  • Format: Paperback
  • John Henry Days is a novel of extraordinary scope and mythic power Recognised as one of the novels of 2001, it establishes Colson Whitehead as one of the pre eminent young American writers of our time Building the railways that made America, John Henry died with a hammer in his hand moments after competing against a steam drill in a battle of endurance The story of hi John Henry Days is a novel of extraordinary scope and mythic power Recognised as one of the novels of 2001, it establishes Colson Whitehead as one of the pre eminent young American writers of our time Building the railways that made America, John Henry died with a hammer in his hand moments after competing against a steam drill in a battle of endurance The story of his death made him a legend Over a century later, J Sutter, a freelance journalist and accomplished expense account abuser, is sent to West Virginia to cover the launch of a new postage stamp at the first John Henry Days festival John Henry Days is a riveting portrait of America Through a patchwork of interweaving histories Colson Whitehead triumphantly reveals how a nation creates its present through the stories it tells of its past.

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      283 Colson Whitehead
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      Posted by:Colson Whitehead
      Published :2018-08-20T06:11:04+00:00

    One thought on “John Henry Days

    1. Craig on said:

      I am befuddled by these reviews. I have tried to read The Intuitionist 4 times; APEX is a riff on all the good in John Henry Days; Sag Harbor worked better as a short story. But John Henry Days? This is about my 11th time reading it, this time in prep for teaching it again for the first time in almost 10 years. I'm basing the star rating (really a 3 1/2) on this read of it, which for me has lost a little of the magic since a) I know what's going to happen and b) I've poured over every line a 100 [...]

    2. Wes Freeman on said:

      Some shit to make you quit your job. Every possible look at John Henry's race against a steam drill as model for modern work ethic (modern, at least, circa-late 1990s, early 2000s, before economy receded). For those out there who aren't happy to have a job, who are still asking why am I doing this pointless thing every day just for $, step between these pages and take a load off. Author feels you. He feels heaps other stuff, too; book is chock full of Eustachian tube-clearing funny jokes and spo [...]

    3. Roy on said:

      John Henry Days is written in an interesting narrative style. It shows us events through the lens of multiple characters, some repeatedly visited, others glimpsed just once or twice. A man named J. Sutter is the one most frequently observed, so I suppose he is technically the main character. But the true MC is a particular weekend in a particular town where an event possibly took place many years earlier, featuring a person who possibly existed. The event was a man defeating a machine at the fea [...]

    4. Deb Oestreicher on said:

      I confess to being awed by Colson Whitehead. This novel is just astonishing. I am pretty sure my mouth dropped open at several points. A sort of fantasia around the fictional release of a commemorative stamp honoring the folk hero John Henry, the book convincingly imagines a wide range of American lives--all the people associated with the festivities planned to launch the new stamp, including journalists, publicists, a small town's officials and citizens, assorted guests (such as a stamp collect [...]

    5. Chris on said:

      I really enjoyed this book, though it is definitely the weakest of Whitehead's three novels. Of course, "The Intuitionist" and "Apex Hides the Hurt" were so brilliant that most novels are weaker than them. "John Henry" also suffers from sophomore over-reaching; Whitehead is clever to the point of genius. but that is actually the books failing, as it is often clever without restraint. The lines "So much depends upon a red pickup truck, filled with crackers," and "a runway model dares to eat a pea [...]

    6. First Second Books on said:

      This one has been on my shelf for a few years--I read Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, Apex Hides the Hurt, and Zone One multiple times so obviously I'm a huge Whitehead fan, but for some reason John Henry Days slipped through the cracks. I'm glad it did, because it gave me a new Whitehead book to read while I waited for The Underground Railroad to come out. It didn't disappoint. I usually have extremely limited tolerance for books that jump POV as much as this one does -- they more often than not [...]

    7. Jane on said:

      Although I'd rate Whitehead's more recent Sag Harbor higher for pure enjoyment, this one places near the top on the admiration scale. With its multiple narrative perspectives on the John Henry legend, it's an ingenious tour de force of folklore and pop culture. The writer loves words and their use in the service of cleverness and wit. I may have missed some of the allusions, but I did get a major guffaw out of --I think my memory serves here--"Everything depends on the red pick-up truck filled w [...]

    8. Gregg Wingo on said:

      What a wonderful find and a generally unknown mystery for most West Virginians. In "John Henry Days" we have a local story (Talcott is just 20 miles down river from me), a WV tale, and one of the finest and most accessible Postmodernist novels ever written. I have been reading and rereading the novel for a while now and it has been an immense pleasure each time. It is a work of tremendous detail on human existence. Like all great Postmodernist novels it is an unrepentant criticism of Late Capita [...]

    9. Sally on said:

      A really impressive and fascinating novel in many ways. The story of John Henry as song, as legend, as tourist attraction is the narrative thread. The focus is on John Henry Days, a festival in West Virginia that has been created to celebrate John Henry and the issuing of a stamp of him, but more importantly to bring tourists to two small and economically struggling towns. Much of the story is through the eyes of J. Sutter, a black journalist and junketeer, whose visit to the festival has been p [...]

    10. Daniel Petersen on said:

      This is my first Colson Whitehead book and I liked it quite a bit. It is a patchwork novel, narrating characters and events from a range of times and places in American history: late 19th century as well as early, mid, and late 20th century - not in that order! These narratives loop backward and forward round one another, but not to the point of incoherence. Several of the set pieces are just exquisite, some of the best stuff I've ever read. By far the most gripping for me was a (fictional) eyew [...]

    11. Chris Chester on said:

      By some strange chance, I happened to pick this book up when I came upon it in a used bookstore in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. I had never been to West Virginia before, nor can I recall having read a book set there (Deliverance was further south, right?), so it seemed serendipitous perhaps to purchase a book set in the state while briefly setting foot there.But I digress.John Henry Days is not at all what I thought it would be, but is actually not too out there, once I really think about it. [...]

    12. John on said:

      I read this book mostly because it had the words "John Henry" in the title. Hopefully I've learned my lesson, as this was honestly one of the hardest-to-finish books I've ever read - unlikeable characters (especially the main character), plenty of mock-literary contrivances, and little in the ways of discernable plot. It seems to be trying to compare the rigors of a greedy, soul-sucking white-collar life with the backbreaking work of an underpaid railroad worker, but The Onion does a much better [...]

    13. sam on said:

      Yuck. For the first few pages I was really into it, but it only got worse: Such sophomoric writing, such smarminess, such creakily obvious narrative set-up, such transparent literary tricks to glorify a bunch of soulless characters about whom I couldn't give less of a damn. It read like a second-rate indie movie and made me hate the author behind that awful voice, and I gave up after seventy pages.Is the rest of this book like this? Is most of Whitehead's work? I haven't read anything else of hi [...]

    14. Chris O'Brien on said:

      As a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer, this book excels as a series of wonderfully crafted vignettes that are sprinkled through the main narrative. Taken as a whole, however, Whitehead seemed to lose his way. The man can write some serious sentences, I'll give him that.

    15. Randall on said:

      The structure of the narrative here isn't really my cup of tea, so to speak. I enjoyed all the little pieces just fine, but when you spend so little time with so many characters, it's really hard to develop much interest in them. The primary story gets where it needs to go, eventually, but not without what I consider to be an inexplicable number and variety of vignettes related to the main narrative only tangentially and serve mostly as background illumination that doesn't really otherwise drive [...]

    16. Dan on said:

      Actually I did not finish. I gave up after the first 4 or 5 discs because I still couldn't tell what the book was about or where it was going. A lot like trying to watch MTV. Not sure what the part about the biker kicking the kid's head in had to do with anything. If I want to listen to someone just spilling out everything he knows whether it means anything or has any relevance I could sit and listen to the crazy on the corner shouting to the wind. Not sure why anyone wasted the time to publish [...]

    17. Wendy on said:

      I don't know 2, maybe 2.5 starsWhitehead is a pretty engaging writer, sometimes funny, but I think really needed an editor. Maybe with economic climate so different today from when he wrote it in the go-go 90s, all the PR machine/junket lifestyle thing really feels like bygone times. Somewhere in there is something good about the John Henry legend and there were some clever internal echos/ideas, but overall reading it felt like a lot of work without a lot of payoff.

    18. Marvin on said:

      I gave up on this one after about 50 pages. Although it got rave reviews in the New York Times & elsewhere, which called attention to stellar prose & themes that interest me, I thought a reviewer for the Library Journal got it right: "Too many characters and a forced [I would add disjointed:] writing style make this an unremarkable work about wasted lives and superficial people."

    19. J on said:

      At the start of this second novel by Whitehead, I thought, this has a Moby-Dick vibe going on with this sort of front-end appendix filled with quotes. And as the book's fractured narrative hopped around with one main plotline, the John Henry Days of the title, a celebration in Talcott, WV of the man, and several other side plots, I began to believe that Melville's whale was indeed the inspiration. The main plot follows J. Sutter, freelance journalist, as he goes to Talcott to write a website art [...]

    20. Johnny on said:

      Ik kende John Henry van de Disney-film "Tall Tale", waar hij samen met Paul Bunyan en Pecos Bill een fantasierijk jongetje helpt de boerderij van zijn vader te redden. John Henry is een mythologische figuur uit de Amerikaanse geschiedenis. Een sterke spoorwegarbeider die ooit een wedstrijd tegen een stoomdrilboor won. Toen ik tijdens de boekenverkoop van de bibliotheek in Genk een exemplaar van "De John Henry Dagen" zag liggen, geschreven door Colson Whitehead - tegenwoordig bekend van zijn laat [...]

    21. Tomas on said:

      Wow. What a great book. Whitehead takes a folk tale -- that of black steel driver John Henry -- and brings it to a life that spans the beginning of the age of the railroad to the 1990's. It's not because John Henry lived that long. Actually, Henry died quite young since winning a steel-driving contest with a machine cost him his life. Whitehead does it by bringing to light the life of various characters whose lives intersect somehow with the folk hero. There is J. Sutter, the hack who is sent on [...]

    22. Karen on said:

      Every possible angle on the story/myth of John Henry, set in a small town in West Virginia with a claim to be the site of the famous race between John Henry and the steam drill. The town is hoping to give itself a boost by putting on an annual John Henry Days festival, and for the first annual celebration they have gotten the USPS to unveil a John Henry stamp. J a black journalist from New York, has come down to attend the festivities and possibly write about it. A host of other characters come [...]

    23. Jesus on said:

      It's remarkable how a novel can feel deeply rich with meaning, yet leaves one struggling to articulate its meaning or meanings. Partly this is due to Whitehead's prose; he paints with words like an exuberant painter with a hundred tubes of paint and a dozen new brushes. Some chapters are joyous to read for the language and images alone. And the chatacters! Simultaneously familiar and exotic, the delightful assemblage of personalities keeps you engaged. The disjointed narrative makes for less of [...]

    24. Carl Williams on said:

      “The sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers ride their father's magic carpet made of steel." Arlo GutherieHistory or legend, myth or fact—the truth can lie in any of these creations or, equally hide away from any. Whitehead explores how truth can flow in and out of our reality. There is a tapestry of interwoven story lines around the search for John Henry’s truth, the center of which is a the story of J. Sutter, a free lance journalist—a black man who is, like John Henry, in h [...]

    25. J.C. on said:

      A wonderful book that crushes you by novel's end. Often funny, especially in dialogue, but for the most part the book was a unique journey for me. While I enjoyed the various POVs in the novel, sometimes I felt one came off stronger, clearer, than others. Maybe that's deliberate, or it could just be my varying stress level. At any rate, this is my first experience reading Whitehead, and certainly wont be the last. I find this book very well thought out and articulated, and brings more to the con [...]

    26. Audrey on said:

      Maybe I didn't enjoy this book because Underground was so good. I just never got in the swing of the ultra short chapter and switching narration. He jumped from present day (which felt dusty given the 90s(?) setting) to John Henry to times in between. There were glimmers that I really appreciated, like talking shortly about how the song developed differently depending on geographical regions. But overall, I wouldn't recommend, whereas I've told multiple people about his most recent book.

    27. Daryl on said:

      I had to burn through this one pretty quickly because my kindle loan from the library was about to run out, but I liked it a lot even no doubt having missed a lot for having read hastily. I thought it was well put together and nicely written, and it for sure keeps me interested in Whitehead (this is the fifth of his that I've read).

    28. William Tam on said:

      I just recently read this (written 20 years ago), and it is a very creative combination of a very personal experience (African-American NYC-based writer/flack working the PR circuit for magazines) and a larger contemplation on myth and appropriation. In certain ways, somewhat dated -- many references to things that only make sense to the 1996 media culture. But still really good.

    29. Simeon on said:

      Finished "John Henry Days" Colson Whitehead 3.2/5 - Arch prose about WV festival, John Henry Legend, and journalists ? who cover the event. Tight intermingling of legend and modern viewpoint with a number of views of the John Henry legend

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