Song of the Shank

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Product Details
$18.00  $16.74
Graywolf Press
Publish Date
6.02 X 9.08 X 1.22 inches | 1.71 pounds

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About the Author

Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of the novel Rails Under My Back, the story collection Holding Pattern, and two collections of poetry. Raised in Chicago and now living in New York, he teaches at Queens College and in the writing program at the New School.


"[A] masterly new novel. . . . It sagely explores themes of religion, class, art and genius, and introduces elements of magic realism . . . resulting in the kind of imaginative work only a prodigiously gifted risk-taker could produce." --The New York Times Book Review (front cover)

"Allen's elaborate novel unfurls like a tapestry, its minutely detailed tableaux illustrating the vast, unhealed bruise of American racism." --The Boston Globe

"Powerfully evokes the life of the 19th-century slave and enigmatic musical savant, Blind Tom." --Vanity Fair

"Epic and brilliant. . . . [Allen's] unhurried and unconventional novel is a celebration of an utterly unique American artist." --The Los Angeles Times

"Inventive, earthy, lyrical, demanding, rewarding. . . . There are echoes . . . in this potential Great American Novel of past masters Faulkner, Hemingway, Ellison, Melville, John Edgar Wideman, Ishmael Reed." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Beautiful. . . . [Allen's] style is at once dense and spare--his prose poetic and heavily evocative." --Chicago Tribune

"An eerie fever dream of a historical novel. . . . [Allen] carries the resources of the poet and the psychic in his trick bag." --Bookforum

"[An] explosive vanguard novel . . . a chilling orphic drama full of polyrhythmic shakers and shells. . . . A landmark of modern African-American literature. . . . Reading through this sagacious volume is like stumbling on a crooked monument covered in celestial carvings, something that aims for the stars and ends up reconfiguring constellations." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"If there's any justice, Allen's visionary work, as startlingly inventive as one of his subject's performances, should propel him to the front rank of American novelists." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"[A] delightful literary gem." --Essence

"[A] sprawling, Faulknerian work of fiction." --The Kansas City Star

"In the extraordinarily talented hands of Allen, Tom is a mysterious and compelling figure. . . . [A] tour de force. . . . A brilliant book, with echoes of Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner." --Booklist, starred review