by Ralph Ellison, edited by John F. Callahan
Random House, 1999, 384 pp., $25
Ralph Ellison’s posthumous novel, Juneteenth, has become a book mired in charges of betrayal, and its editor, John Callahan, has been hounded for overseeing the desecration and counterfeit resurrection of a literary corpse. Greg Tate, writing in the Village Voice in July, is typical of the novel’s many detractors. “Suffice it to say, all claims that the version of Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth cobbled together by literary executor John Callahan is Ellison’s last novel or even an Ellison novel at all, are monstrously fraudulent. More than a sham, the posthumous Juneteenth is a mockery of the sacred and once considered inviolable bond between the artist and his work. . . Merely reading this Juneteenth. . . makes one feel complicit in a literary crime, each turn of the page an aiding and abetting of Callahan’s callow butchery.”
Shame on Callahan, in other words. As if Callahan, who has edited well-received collections of Ellison’s short stories and essays, and is working on an edition of the novelist’s ...
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