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 (but were never made) when the book was picked up by W. W. Norton after a disastrous warehouse fire destroyed most of the inventory from the original printing of the book by Another Chicago Press.