Friday Finds: John Henry Days
Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Book bloggers post about a book they hadn’t heard of before and discovered this week. Be part of the dorky book fun 🙂 – leave a comment below with your new book or leave the link to your own Friday Finds post.
This week I chose Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days. I saw this novel on a bargain table at a bookstore and since I really liked Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, thought I would give this a read.
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.
In John 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.
What new book did you find this week that you’ve added to your “to read” list?