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Professor and alum release major literary work

May 12, 2010

  • Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities John Callahan
  • Adam Bradley B.A. '96
  • "Three Days Before the Shooting: The Unfinished Second Novel by Ralph Ellison"
  • John Callahan and Ralph Ellison (photo courtesy of the estate of Ralph Ellison)

Two Lewis & Clark literary scholars have earned major media attention for their role in bringing Ralph Ellison’s long-awaited second novel to life. Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities John Callahan and Adam Bradley B.A. ’96 are co-editors of “Three Days Before the Shooting:  The Unfinished Second Novel by Ralph Ellison,” released January 26.

At his death in 1994, Ralph Ellison left behind roughly two thousand pages of his unfinished second novel, which he had spent nearly four decades writing. Intended to follow his masterpiece, “Invisible Man,” this new novel gathers together in one volume, for the first time, the various parts of Ellison’s planned opus.

In order to bring “Three Days Before the Shooting…” to life, Callahan, the literary executor for Ellison’s estate, enlisted the help of Adam Bradley. A former student of Callahan’s, Bradley is now a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Together, Callahan and Bradley sorted through Ellison’s collected notes, files, and manuscript pages. A profile in The Washington Post described their collaboration as they prepared to release the new novel: “For 14 years, a pair of literary detectives labored to fit the pieces together. Now they’re ready to share with the world.”

This spring, Bradley also published “Ralph Ellison in Progress,” a critical exploration of the craft of Ralph Ellison’s fiction, released May 4. 

The work of these two literary detectives is catching the attention of media outlets nationwide.

The Chronicle Review: Ralph Ellison’s Never-Ending Novel (5/9/10)

Washington Post: Whatever Happened To…The Ellison Scholars? (4/11/10)

The Defenders Online: From ‘Not That Bright’ to Publishing Ralph Ellison: Willing Identity, Exceeding Expectations (3/19/10)

American Way Magazine: Years in the Making (3/1/10)

Associated Press: Ralph Ellison’s unfinished second novel still essential (2/21/10)

Tulsa World: Ellison made visible (2/21/10)

The Oregonian: Q&A with John Callahan, an editor of Ralph Ellison’s unfinished work (2/13/10)

NPR: Two Editors Complete Author Ralph Ellison’s Final Work (2/10/10)

Oklahoma Gazette: Ralph Ellison’s still-incomplete second novel finally emerges after 40 years of writing (2/10/10)

Huffington Post: Race and Identity in America: The Magnificence of Ralph Ellison (2/9/10)

Newsweek: The Curse of the Great American Novel (2/5/10)

PBS Newshour: Conversation: Ralph Ellison’s Unfinished Novel Gets Some Visibility (2/5/10)

NBC New York: Ralph Ellison’s Empire State of Mind (2/4/10)

Walrus Magazine: Ghost Stories (2/4/10)

Publisher’s Weekly: Ellison’s Unfinished Novel Released (2/1/10)

Oregon Public Broadcasting: After the Invisible Man (1/29/10)

BookPage: The second novel: Ellison returns 58 years after “Invisible Man” (1/26/10)

Boulder’s Daily Camera: CU professor helps bring Ralph Ellison’s unfinished novel to fruition (1/26/10)

O Magazine: 10 Books to Watch For in February 2010 (1/21/10)

The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great 2010 Book Preview (1/5/10)

Creative Loafing Atlanta: Ralph Ellison’s unfinished second novel is finally published (1/22/10)


About “Three Days Before the Shooting…”:

Set in the frame of a deathbed vigil, the story is a gripping multigenerational saga centered on the assassination of the controversial, race-baiting U.S. senator Adam Sunraider, who’s being tended to by “Daddy” Hickman, the elderly black jazz musician turned preacher who raised the orphan Sunraider as a light-skinned black in rural Georgia. Presented in their unabridged, provisional state, the narrative sequences form a deeply poetic, moving, and profoundly entertaining book, brimming with humor and tension, composed in Ellison’s magical jazz-inspired prose style and marked by his incomparable ear for vernacular speech.

Beyond its richly compelling narratives, “Three Days Before the Shooting…” is perhaps most notable for its extraordinary insight into the creative process of one of this country’s greatest writers. In various stages of composition and revision, its typescripts and computer files testify to Ellison’s achievement and struggle with his material from the mid-1950s until his death forty years later. “Three Days Before the Shooting…” is an essential, fascinating piece of Ralph Ellison’s legacy, and its publication is to be welcomed as a major event for American arts and letters.

About the editors:

John F. Callahan is Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark College. His writings include a novel, “A Man You Could Love.” He is the editor of the Modern Library edition of “The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison” and is the literary executor of Ralph Ellison’s estate.

Adam Bradley is a Lewis & Clark alumnus (1996) and Associate Professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of the forthcoming “Ralph Ellison–in–Progress,” a critical study of Ellison’s unfinished second novel.



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