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Ralph Ellison's Empire State of Mind

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Ralph Ellison's Empire State of Mind

John Callahan and Adam Bradley -- co-editors of Ralph Ellison's posthumous, unfinished second novel "Three Days Before The Shooting..." -- were in an Empire state of mind as they mingled with guests at Soho bookstore McNally Jackson last night.

"Even though this is a novel that goes all the way out to Oklahoma and to Georgia and to Washington D.C., there's something about New York that is the epicenter of Ellison's imagination," said Bradley, a man who's pored over the publishing-shy perfectionist's fragmented follow-up to "Invisible Man" since his undergraduate days at Lewis and Clark College.

Bradley's collaborator and former professor Callahan agreed: "Looking around at the city, you expect to see some of his characters pop out of the doorways."

Manhattan was where Callahan first met Ellison. After publishing an article analyzing Ellison's work, the convivial wordsmith invited him to his uptown apartment. At first, their conversation was stilted and awkward, Callahan was quick to recall, until five o'clock rolled around and "Ralph" -- ever the Southern gent -- busted out the bourbon.

From there, the two men struck up a life-long friendship that ultimately lead to Callahan becoming the National Book Award-winning writer's literary executor. Years later, Callahan brought Bradley on board and the two pieced together Ellison's scattered scribblings.

However, considering that Juneteenth -- the first of Ellison's posthumously published works -- is represented in near entirety within the pages of "Three Days Before The Shooting...," will readers view the latter as an essential addition to the late author's oeuvre?

"Years down the road -- providing we still read books and Kindle doesn't take us into a new land of Avatars -- you all can choose," joked Callahan.

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