front cover of The Bloodworth Orphans
The Bloodworth Orphans
Leon Forrest
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Leon Forrest, acclaimed author of Divine Days, uses a remarkable verbal intensity to evoke human tragedy, injustice, and spirituality in his writing. As Toni Morrison has said, "All of Forrest's novels explore the complex legacy of Afro-Americans. Like an insistent tide this history . . . swells and recalls America's past. . . . Brooding, hilarious, acerbic and profoundly valued life has no more astute observer than Leon Forrest." All of that is on display here in a novel that give readers a breathtaking view of the human experience, filled with humor and pathos.

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Divine Days
A Novel
Leon Forrest; Foreword by Kenneth W. Warren, Preface by Zachary Price
Northwestern University Press, 2023
A virtuosic epic applauded by Stanley Crouch as “an adventurous masterwork that provides our literature with a signal moment,” back in print in a definitive new edition

“I have an awful memory for faces, but an excellent one for voices,” muses Joubert Jones, the aspiring playwright at the center of Divine Days. A kaleidoscopic whorl of characters, language, music, and Black experience, this saga follows Jones for one week in 1966 as he pursues the lore and legends of fictional Forest County, a place resembling Chicago’s South Side. Joubert is a veteran, recently returned to the city, who works for his aunt Eloise’s newspaper and pours drinks at her Night Light Lounge. He wants to write a play about Sugar-Groove, a drifter, “eternal wunderkind,” and local folk hero who seems to have passed away. Sugar-Groove’s disappearance recalls the subject of one of Joubert’s earlier writing attempts—W. A. D. Ford, a protean, diabolical preacher who led a religious sect known as “Divine Days.” Joubert takes notes as he learns about both tricksters, trying to understand their significance.

Divine Days introduces readers to a score of indelible characters: Imani, Joubert’s girlfriend, an artist and social worker searching for her lost siblings and struggling to reconcile middle class life with her values and Black identity; Eloise, who raised Joubert and whose influence is at odds with his writerly ambitions; (Oscar) Williemain, a local barber, storyteller, and founder of the Royal Rites and Righteous Ramblings Club; and the Night Light’s many patrons. With a structure inspired by James Joyce and jazz, Leon Forrest folds references to African American literature and cinema, Shakespeare, the Bible, and classical mythology into a heady quest that embraces life in all its tumult and adventure.

This edition brings Forrest’s masterpiece back into print, incorporating hundreds of editorial changes that the author had requested from W. W. Norton, but were not made for their editions in 1993 and 1994. Much of the inventory from the original printing of the book by Another Chicago Press in 1992 had been destroyed in a disastrous warehouse fire.

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front cover of “IN THE LIGHT OF LIKENESS—TRANSFORMED”
“IN THE LIGHT OF LIKENESS—TRANSFORMED”
THE LITERARY ART OF LEON FORREST
DANA A WILLIAMS
The Ohio State University Press, 2005

“In the Light of Likeness—Transformed”, by Dana A. Williams, looks critically at the work of contemporary African American author Leon Forrest. Not only does she bring to the critical table a well-known but as yet understudied modernist author—an important endeavor in and of itself—but she also explores Forrest’s novels’ cultural dialogue with black ethnic culture and other African American authors, as well as provides in-depth readings of his prose and interpretations of his narrative style. Highly touted by both his literary forebear Ralph Ellison, who wrote the foreword to Forrest’s first novel, and his literary contemporary Toni Morrison, who edited his first three novels and wrote the foreword to his third, Leon Forrest is among the most gifted African American writers of our time. Yet, he is also among our most difficult.

Forrest's highly experimental narrative style, his reinterpretation of modernism, and his transformations of black cultural traditions into literary aesthetics often pose challenges of interpretation for the reader and the scholar alike. As the first single-authored book-length study of Forrest’s novel, this book offers readers pathways into his fiction. What this culturalist approach to the novels reveals is that Forrest’s fiction was foremost concerned with investigating ways for the African American to survive in the contemporary moment. Through a variety of characters, the novels reveal the African American’s art of transformation—the ability to find ways to make the wretchedness of the past work in positive ways.

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Leon Forrest
Introductions and Interpretations
John G. Cawelti
University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
The four novels of Leon Forrest are one of the major glories of contemporary African-American fiction. From the intense inwardness of There Is a Tree More Ancient than Eden to the epic comedy of Divine Days, Forrest's work presents a vision of African-American culture which is unique in its complexity and depth.
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front cover of Meteor in the Madhouse
Meteor in the Madhouse
Leon Forrest
Northwestern University Press, 2011
Forrest's long-awaited last work follows the last days of journalist Joubert Jones and his long relationship with his friend and mentor, the idealistic and doomed poet Leonard Foster.
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front cover of There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden
There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden
Leon Forrest
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Leon Forrest, acclaimed author of Divine Days, uses a remarkable verbal intensity to evoke human tragedy, injustice, and spirituality in his writing. As Toni Morrison has said, "All of Forrest's novels explore the complex legacy of Afro-Americans. Like an insistent tide this history . . . swells and recalls America's past. . . . Brooding, hilarious, acerbic and profoundly valued life has no more astute observer than Leon Forrest." All of that is on display here in two novels that give readers a breathtaking view of the human experience, filled with humor and pathos.
[more]


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