The “New” Book by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man won the National Book Award in 1953. It was the only novel he would ever publish. When Ellison died in 1994, he had 27 boxes of manuscript for his long-awaited second novel. In 1999 John F. Callahan, Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark College and executor of Ellison’s estate, published a brief portion of the manuscript under the title Juneteenth.

Now, Callahan and co-editor Adam Bradley, an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder, have published a 1,136-page edition of Ellison’s uncompleted work, entitled Three Days Before the Shooting. The novel involves the assassination of a race-baiting United States senator, who is a black man passing for white.

The novel was unfinished and gives the reader the opportunity to conjecture how the story might be completed. But Ellison’s writing is well worth the effort. In its review Publishers Weekly wrote, the novel “contains countless passages of breathtaking prose, touching upon America and its mystic motto of national purpose violently aflutter.”

Professor Bradley is currently on a nationwide tour promoting the book. He was a student of Professor Callahan’s at Lewis & Clark College. Bradley went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. at Harvard University. Later this year, his book Ralph Ellison in Progress, a critical look at Ellison’s fiction, will be published by Yale University Press.