J. Sutter is on The List - The King of the Junketeers - one of the select freeloading journalists and expense account abusers who are invited to cover any event ,no matter how small. J. has been sent by a travel web site to West Virginia to cover the first annual 'John Henry Days', a festival to celebrate the launch of a New US postal stamp ...
J. Sutter is on The List - The King of the Junketeers - one of the select freeloading journalists and expense account abusers who are invited to cover any event ,no matter how small. J. has been sent by a travel web site to West Virginia to cover the first annual 'John Henry Days', a festival to celebrate the launch of a New US postal stamp commemorating the Famous American folk hero, John Henry. Immortalised in ballads, John Henry was a labourer on the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad who, in a test of strength and stamina, tested his mettle against a steam drill, only to die moments after the victory from exhaustion. Interweaving the stories of J. and John Henry, Colson Whitehead explores the parallels between the Industrial age which killed John Henry and the Information Age which is destroying J.'s soul. Through their two lives, Whitehead traces the evolution of the ballad of John Henry, juxtaposing history, popular culture, journalism and the oral tradition, revealing a riveting portrait of how a nation creates its present through the stories it tells of its past.
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-04-16 Death knells toll alike at the dawn of the machine age and the digital age, proclaiming an exhausted general collapse in this impressive, multilayered second novel by Whitehead (The Intuitionist). Seizing on the story of American folk hero John Henry, the black railroad worker who beat a steam drill in a one-on-one contest and died in the act, Whitehead juxtaposes it with the soulless saga of 21st-century freelance writer J. Sutter, member of a junketeering tribe whose mores and speech are rendered with anthropological enthusiasm. J. and his fellow junketeers notably Dave Brown, a former gonzo Rolling Stone journalist whose best days were in the late '60s, and jittery One Eye, whose paranoia infects J. descend on Talcott, W.Va., John Henry's supposed resting ground, to report on the U.S. Postal Service's release of a commemorative John Henry stamp. They coincide there with Pamela Street, the daughter of a deceased John Henry obsessive who opened a mad private museum in Harlem to celebrate the man, and Alphonse Miggs, a collector specializing in train stamps, whose secret agenda involves his newly purchased pistol. The debased countercultural cynicism of the junketeers, J.'s compulsive collection of factoids and receipts to fuel the print media machine, and the warped nostalgic longings of Pamela and Alphonse are funneled into a tornado-like narrative storm, bits and pieces of the John Henry myth spinning in the updraft. Whitehead (recipient of a 2000 Whiting Writers' Award) has the early DeLillo's sense for the sinister underside of Americana, combined with historical consciousness of the African-American middle-class in the post-civil rights era. Smart, learned and soaringly ambitious, his second novel consolidates his position as one of the leading writers of serious fiction of his generation. (May 15) Forecast: Strong reviews, word-of-mouth, a national reading tour and comparisons to DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen and other writers of novels on the large scale (perhaps by the junketeer manufacturers of buzz Whitehead captures so ably but that's only appropriate) will do much for this important, deserving work. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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