Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution

Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution

by Jerome Charyn

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"A rollicking tale."—Stacy Schiff, New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

Johnny One-Eye is bringing about the rediscovery of one of the most "singular and remarkable [careers] in American literature" (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World). In this picaresque tour de force that reanimates Revolutionary Manhattan through the story of double agent John Stocking, the bastard son of a whorehouse madam and possibly George Washington, Jerome Charyn has given us one of the most memorable historical novels in years. As Johnny seeks to unlock the mystery of his birth and grapples with his allegiances, he falls in love with Clara, a gorgeous, green-eyed octoroon, the most coveted harlot of Gertrude's house. The wild parade of characters he encounters includes Benedict Arnold, the Howe brothers, "Sir Billy" and "Black Dick," and a manipulative Alexander Hamilton.Not since John Barth's The Sotweed Factor and Gore Vidal's Burr has a novel so dramatically re-created America's historical beginnings. Reading group guide included.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393067811
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 02/17/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Jerome Charyn's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative, Ellery Queen, and other magazines. His most recent novel is I Am Abraham. He lived for many years in Paris and currently resides in Manhattan.

What People are Saying About This

Jonathan Lethem

Jerome Charyn is merely one of our finest writers, with a polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing.

Michael Chabon

Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature.

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Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ChazzW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best thing about Jerome Charyn¿s fictional ¿tale of the American Revolution¿ are the portraits of some of those figures which we have been reading about, in one form or another, since¿.well, since we learned to read. This George Washington, this Alexander Hamilton, and this Benedict Arnold are familiar to us, without question. But here they¿ve stepped out of the history books and taken up temporary residence in our living rooms. The alabaster has become flesh. The granite has softened.These founding fathers have become human - as they should have in a good historical novel. So Charyn has it half right. The novel never scales the heights beyond that, though. It¿s trajectory is flat, though at a high enough level to keep the readers interest. Just on the next page we expect a little more. But the Washingtons and Hamiltons never connect with the John Stocking¿s, with the Clara¿s, with the Gert¿s of the novel - never connect with the fictional creations that have helped bring them to life for the reader.So in a way, Charyn¿s novel is only half successful. Benedict Arnold does his job, but Johnny One-Eye never quite does his.
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Tribute_Books_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Johnny One-Eye is the Forrest Gump of the American Revolution. He's a fictitious character whose life becomes intertwined with the most illustrious personages in the land from George Washington to Alexander Hamilton. As the son of Manhattan's savviest madame, he lives in a brothel among prostitutes. Yet throughout the war, he seamlessly mingles with all classes in society from Prince Paul, the leader of the city's Little Africa, to his disgraced former general, Benedict Arnold. His ability to adapt to any situation places him in a precarious position as both the British and American forces try to recruit him as a spy. He walks a perilous line trying to serve two masters while first and foremost looking out for himself. The travails of his love life tend to complicate matters even further. As a eye patch wearing, Quasimodo Lothario, he is hopelessly besotted with his childhood friend, Clara, who is now in the employ of his mother. As she flits from one customer's bed to another, she ridicules Johnny One-Eye's advances and mocks his romantic pursuit. Spurned by his true love, he turns to the comfort of the voluptuous mistress of General William Howe, the British commander in charge of the occupation of New York. Needless to say, Sir William flies into a jealous rage upon discovering he is sharing his lover with a one-eyed rogue. The book itself is broken into seven sections by year from 1776-1783. Each begins with a preface written from George Washington's point of view. Johnny One-Eye shares the spotlight with the commander in chief because as the narrative progresses the question of his paternity begins to point in the general's direction. This illegitimate scamp from the gutter could, in fact, be America's first son. The two work on building a tenuous relationship as they try to watch out for each other in the midst of dangerous plots and intrigues. Charyn succeeds in creating a George Washington who is a fully developed character. He is not the one-dimensional, mythological figure who cannot tell a lie. Instead, he is a military commander who makes mistakes, and he is passionately in love with a red-haired courtesan, Johnny's mother. In the novel's best scene, these two characteristics combine at his beloved's whorehouse. In his foolhardiness, he knowingly walks into a trap by responding to General Howe's invitation to a card game. All sides hold their breath as Washington skillfully maneuvers through the game relying on his wits to save his life. Charyn painstakingly reconstructs the Revolutionary setting. Through extensive research and attention to detail, he masterfully brings to life the British occupation of New York City. The island teems with a volatile mixture of Hessian mercenaries, British aristocracy, rebel spies and Loyalist merchants. The rich feast as the poor starve. Johnny One-Eye, himself, depicts the various atrocities of the time. He endures a tar and feathering, imprisonment aboard a fetid naval vessel and banishment from the colonies. Yet like the young nation, he overcomes all obstacles in order to fashion his own destiny. Overall, even with a one-eyed account, Johnny offers a detailed glimpse of the grueling birth of a nation.