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The Chaneysville Incident Paperback – May 23, 1990

124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (May 23, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060916818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060916817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 10.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Bradley is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon and the author of South Street and The Chaneysville Incident, the latter of which won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1982 and was a finalist for the National Book Award. The novel also earned Bradley an Academy Award for literature. Bradley has published essays, book reviews, and interviews in periodicals and newspapers including Esquire, Redbook, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the New Yorker.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 128 people found the following review helpful By DAVID A. FLETCHER on May 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
First,let me say my father's family was from the same part of Pennsylvania as author David Bradley, as well as the characters portrayed in "The Chaneysville Incident." Yes, those slave graves ARE on that farm. And yes, while there are those who debate the scenario surrounding those graves, Bradley's setting is entirely plausible, and his story was one that was undoubtedly acted out more than a few times in real life.

The Maryland/Pennsylvania border region has certainly had a speckled racial history, before and after the Civil War. Did slave-catchers make forays into Pennsylvania in the Ante-Bellum era? Yes. There is documentation. It was a socially complicated time, to say the least. If, for example, a southern landowner moved north above the Mason-Dixon, and wished to "keep" his human labor force, the slaves had to be legally contracted in the county for a period of indenture, usually including a freedom "purchase price" if the then former slave wished to leave his former owner. Freedmen had to carry papers, which, while documenting their status, didn't guarantee anything approaching the social status & mobility of whites. There were white families in the border townships of southern Pennsylvania, who, while they themselves didn't own slaves, had cousins and even siblings just over the border in Maryland who did. My dad's family was one like that. So, racially speaking, there was black, white, and a great deal of gray fogging the boundaries between the two.

When David Bradley's novel was first published, much of the reaction from his fellow Bedford Countians revolved around questions about the historical accuracy of his setting, coupled with the statements of "other-ness" made on behalf of the novel's main characters.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Klaus Jr. on December 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is deeply steeped in both history and a profound sense of the limits of history. I think it has a justifiable claim to standing among the great American novels. It is well researched, and the product of a keen, nuanced, discriminating intellect that, one can tell, does not suffer fools gladly. It deals with our central American wounds, those of race and privilege. It does all of that good stuff that English teachers and critics love to rattle on about. It's just dang DEFENSIBLE on all levels as a piece of work. That being said, it would be easy to lose track of how good a novel it is. The characters are believable to me, the storytelling and the storytelling-within-the-storytelling is so rich, so deep and true, that it ends up being a good, resonant read. It satisfies the intellect, it satisfies the heart, and it keeps one reading.

I often think of this novel among the company of other novels, such as perhaps Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick, that are slighted in their own time, their own first publication, only to have later generations say, "How did they not get it about this one?...How did they not realize what they had here?..." As with the above mentioned works, there are probably moments reading it when it feels like "work", that it feels like it's "not an easy book", but then you break through again to understanding and realize how glad you are that the author did not condescend to "easify".

I have given away many copies of this. It amazes me that it is ever out of print or hard to get hold of. It's truly one of the great stories, one of the great novels.

Buy it and read it and love it.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Boyd on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As we approach the thirtieth anniversary of David Bradley's masterpiece it is odd that this novel is not better known. I'm a professor at a large midwestern state university and teach it regularly, and all of my colleagues who have read it share my admiration of it. Frankly, I consider _The Chaneysville Incident_ to be one of the nine or ten greatest American novels of the twentieth century, and place it on a level with Faulkner's _Absalom, Absalom!_, Ellison's _Invisible Man_, and Morrison's _Beloved_. It is also, for the general reader, simply a stunning narrative, one that is impossible to put down and so powerful that it will leave you shaking. It's not unusual in literary history for masterpieces to fall through the cracks for long periods of time. Whitman sold 36 copies of the first edition of _Leaves of Grass_; Melville's _Moby-Dick_ languished in obscurity for over half a century; and Zora Neale Hurston would still be unknown if Alice Walker hadn't discovered her and_Their Eyes Were Watching God_. But it is still amazing to me that a book as manifestly spectacular and important as _The Chaneysville Incident_ is not better known. By the way, my students are always bowled over by it and every time I teach it I see more and more in it. Do yourself a big favor--buy it, read it, and you can thank me for it later.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Linda G. Harvey on November 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first picked up this book in the mid '80s because it was written by a contemporary at the University of Pennsylvania. Little did I know; this is a brilliant work which deserves much more attention than it has gotten. On one level it is about a man's acceptance of the world(s) he came from and the world(s) he lives in; on another level it is about his understanding that his pre-conceived notions about those worlds are not universally valid. And, it is not without humor - read the descriptions of the sanitation facilities on various sorts of transportation at the beginning! This book is gripping, eye-opening, and emotionally spending. But well worth it.
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