John Henry Days

John Henry Days

A Novel

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In a glowing review of Colson Whitehead's first novel,The Intuitionist, theNew York Times Book Reviewconcluded, "Literary reputations may not always rise and fall as predictably as elevators, but if there's any justice in the world of fiction, Colson Whitehead's should be heading toward the upper floors." WithJohn Henry Days, Colson Whitehead delivers on the promise of his critically acclaimed debut in a magnificent new novel: a retelling of the legend of John Henry that sweeps across generations and cultures in a stunning, hilarious, and unsettling portrait of American society. Immortalized in folk ballads, John Henry has been a favorite American hero since the mid-nineteenth century. According to legend, John Henry, a black laborer for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, was a man of superhuman strength and stamina. He proved his mettle in a contest with a steam drill, only to die of exhaustion moments after his triumph. InJohn Henry Days, Colson Whitehead transforms the simple ballad into a contrapuntal masterpiece. The narrative revolves around the story of J. Sutter, a young black journalist. Sutter is a "junketeer," a freeloading hack who roams from one publicity event to another, abusing his expense account and mooching as much as possible. It is 1996, and an assignment for a travel Web site takes Sutter to West Virginia for the first annual "John Henry Days" festival, a celebration of a new U.S. postal stamp honoring John Henry. And there the real story of John Henry emerges in graceful counterpoint to Sutter's thoroughly modern adventure. As he explores the parallels between the lives of these two black men, and between the Industrial Age, which literally killed John Henry, and the Digital Age that is destroying J. Sutter's soul, Whitehead adds multiple dimensions to the myth of the steel-driving man. And in dazzling set pieces, he traces the evolution of the famous ballad over the past century.John Henry Daysis a novel of extraordinary scope and mythic power that juxtaposes history and popular culture, the blatant bigotry of the past with the more insidious racism of the present, and laugh-out-loud humor with unforgettable poignancy.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Doubleday, 2001
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780385498197
Branch Call Number: FIC/WHI 4565 1


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jan 31, 2018

It runs long and is full of digressions, but the digressions (such as a little girl buying random sheet music) are so entertaining they're worth the extra time. Since it's set in 1996, it's also a bit of a period piece now, as it deals partly with then-new Internet and startup culture, as well as more timeless things like race, work, journalism, and the march of technology.

Dec 06, 2007

Finalist of the 2002 Pulitzer prize for fiction.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings

No similar edition of this title was found at BPL.

Try searching for John Henry Days to see if BPL owns related versions of the work.

Suggest for Purchase

To Top