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Seven Guitars Paperback – August 1, 1997
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John Lahr, The New Yorker
"Riveting. . . . Wilson's mastery of time and character has never been more apparent."
"A play whose epic proportions and abundant spirit remind us of what the American theater once was. . . . As funny as it is moving and lyrical."
Vincent Canby, New York Times
"August Wilson is a remarkable American playwright. Seven Guitars is a formidably impressive tragi-comedy. This writing is as like and unlike Arthur Miller, as Duke Ellinton is as like and unlike Igor Stravinsky."
Clive Barnes, New York Post
"Full of quiet truth . . . mesmerizing . . . a major voice in our theater . . . unusually powerful."
Howard Kissel, New York Daily News
"A gritty, lyrical polyphony of voices that evokes the character and destiny of men and women who can't help singing the blues even when they're just talking. Bristles with symbolism, with rituals of word and action that explode into anguished eloquence and finally into violence."
Jack Kroll, Newsweek
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Top Customer Reviews
"Seven Guitars" recounts the fate of a Pittsburgh blues musician, Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, who scores a hit record in Chicago, but falls short of capitalizing on his success, either with his music, or with his on-again, off-again love, Vera. Along the way, we meet his musician friends, Canewell and Red, his crusty neighbor Louise, the seductive young visitor Ruby, and the mysterious Hedley, who orates on Marcus Garvey, Ethiopia and Buddy Bolden while he goes about his job butchering chickens for sale on the streets of Pittsburgh.
The play's vibrancy springs not only from the characters' plain-spoken poetry, but from Wilson's knowledge of blues, folk legends, superstitions and from his vivid recreation in print of a particular place: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which he has managed to turn into a place of literary myth.
As in "Fences" and in his play set in the '60s, "Two Trains Running" Wilson relies strongly on a character verging on and descending into madness. In "Seven Guitars," it's Hedley, and the way you feel about the play will be determined in part by your reaction to this character and how Wilson uses him. For me, Hedley's motivation was a bit too murky, and his most important act at the end of the play did not mesh well with the motivation Wilson developed for Floyd, the ambitious bluesman.Read more ›
There is a lot of excellent material in this play. Wilson expertly weaves in songs, humor, one character's recipe for turnip greens, and a funny discourse on the difference between Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi roosters. One character, Floyd, is a talented musician, and his arc offers a perspective on African-American artistic aspiration.
Probably the most memorable character in the play is Hedley, a hardworking entrepreneur who is tormented by rage and lust. His dialogue is particularly rich, as he invokes Toussaint L'Ouverture, Marcus Garvey, and traditional African-American biblical interpretation. Overall, "Seven Guitars" is a frequently compelling play with well-written dialogue.
Strangely, although I was familiar with the name of the playwright August Wilson and was aware that he had produced a number of plays that were performed at a college-sponsored repertory theater here in Boston I had not seen or read his plays prior to reading the Terkel interview. Naturally when I read there that one of the plays being discussed was entitled "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" about the legendary female blues singer from the 1920's I ran out to get a copy of the play. That play has been reviewed elsewhere in this space but as is my habit when I read an author who "speaks" to me I grab everything I can by him or her to see where they are going with the work.Read more ›
Seven Guitars is a play from the 40's, and it mainly concerns Floyd Barton, who is a Blues Musician who has recorded a hit song, "That's All Right" and is trying to get to Chicago where he has been invited to record some more. Hedley makes his living by tending and cooking chickens, but he may not be right in the head. He often refers to trumpeter Buddy Bolden and a Black Folk song where the legendary New Orleans jazzman returns bearing money. As Hedley becomes increasingly unhinged Floyd is still trying to get to Chicago; and also trying to convince old flame Vera to go with him. He needs to get his guitar out of hock, as he is booked to play a dance for Mother's Day, and then on to Chicago.
This is the first play I have read from August Wilson's cycle, and it makes me curious to read the rest, though now that I know the chronology, I will start with Gem of the Ocean and work my way through. Better yet, I would like to see the plays performed, to really experience them as they were intended. I like how he has encapsulated a century of history into ten plays. One thing that perplexed me about Seven Guitars though: I only counted one guitar, and kept waiting for the other six to make their appearance.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of his best. I am two plays short of owning the entire cycle. August Wilson was (and is) the voice for a generation.Published 6 months ago by Jacqueline Davis
i don't read much much as i cant find a book to interest me enough , but this was an amazing play . I wish i can find more like it .Published 14 months ago by A. Amer
A masterpiece: despite its specific location in time and black community, it strikes timeless and universal chords in us.Published 19 months ago by Dorothy Marschak
I was especially rewarded by seeing a superb professional production of this play the other night! I strongly recommend reading it before watching it; the experience is that much... Read morePublished on October 3, 2013 by Amer
Each of August Wilson's plays is rich, memerable, and wholly poetic in its scope of the African American experience. Read morePublished on August 21, 2010 by J. Moore
this is a short play - i read it in about an hour. it's okay, nothing that great other than it's based in pittsburgh and if you live here you can pick up some of the flavor. Read morePublished on January 9, 2007 by S. Destfino
In my opinion I feel that Wilson's FENCES is his best play. I've read THE PIANO LESSON and SEVEN GUITARS. Read morePublished on February 6, 2006 by Vanessa Clark