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Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution
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Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  291 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
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 C ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published February 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Sep 01, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes Historical fiction
Recommended to Jason by: Saw it sitting on a library shelf
I am a big fan of historical fiction and this is one of the best I have read. Having said that, it was quite different from the other types of historical fiction I have read. Where to begin. . . .

Johnny One-Eye (JOE) is billed as a comedy set during the Revolutionary War. It is, to be sure a comedy, but certainly not in the same vein as something as laugh-out-loud ridiculous as the Flashman series, courtesy of George Fraser. JOE is a dark comedy, with some giggle out loud moments, but it is more
Jul 07, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Wow, I'm a little surprised at all the negative reviews here! I guess it's not for everyone, but I found Johnny One Eye so funny and so clever - it was a blast to read. It explores the psychology of history, which is fascinating to me. Much of the story is fictional, of course, but from what I understand, quite a few details are accurate. I found it by chance in the New Books section at my library - I had never even heard of Jerome Charyn. I now plan to read everything he's every written!
Jun 20, 2011 Literary rated it it was amazing

Cover: I was graciously sent a hardcover copy of Johnny One-Eye, so I will be reviewing that cover.

I love this cover. The drawing of old-American footwear on a man and woman in a seemingly compromising situation is definitely an attention-grabber. It intimates a certain ... private looseness about the citizens during the Revolutionary period.

Title: Coupled with the drawing on intimacy, I first wondered if there was a certain perverseness in the title. However, upon reading this novel,
Jan 12, 2015 Ted rated it it was amazing
The last novel I read about the Revolutionary War was Johnny Tremain (more recently, visits to Saratoga battlefield and hearing about Benedict Arnold's exploits, Ron Chernow's excellent Hamilton biography, and HBO's John Adams have fleshed out my imagination of the period). Jerome Charyn writes about a young Johnny, too - a few years older, I believe, at 17 in 1775 - but he moves the action from Boston to his home city of New York, to the side of George Washington as he flits around Manhattan, ...more
Nov 20, 2009 Gravity rated it really liked it
Shelves: fake-out-spys
I've read a few other Jerome Charyn books thanks to learning about him from an old issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction that I picked up at the ginormous Friend's of the Library sale years ago. Charyn's a flat-floot, twangy, picaresque humorist writing usually about the assorted zaniness of zany people living in New York in the later part of the 20th century.

Johnny One-Eyed, like the rest I've read from Charyn (limited, he's prolific), is a love story of New York. But old, old New York.
Feb 02, 2009 HBalikov rated it really liked it
Hoping this is as good as Sot-Weed Factor
I have enjoyed this as much as Barth's book. It has a picaresque approach to our Revolutionary War. Charyn has obviously done a good deal of reseach on NYC during the this period and it is often hard to tell where the history leaves off and the imagination begins. Like The Sot-Weed Factor is has a bawdy nature and the plot is full of plots, misunderstandings and two-dimensional characters from history that are now fleshed out. Did you know that GW had a t
Nov 22, 2013 Nancy rated it did not like it
I can't think of the last book I disliked so much that I actually bothered to finish. This one took me 8 or 9 months to get through because I kept putting it down and reading other books. For a while, I kept hoping it would get better. But it never did. When I picked it up I thought, "Oh, historical fiction set during the American Revolution - this could be good." Could be, but wasn't. The short chapters seemed too choppy, so I never felt drawn into the story. I hated the main character. There ...more
Apr 24, 2008 Ruth rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: High School freshman & up
If you like the history of the Revolutionary War in the U.S. then this is the book for you. It is well researched. The hero, Johnny, bounces among War greats such as Benedict Arnold, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton to name a few. Despite the fact that the author jumps around a great deal, he still tells an impelling story. His description of being tarred and feathered makes your skin crawl.
Aug 07, 2009 Jonathanrwilson rated it it was amazing
Seriously one of the best books I've read. I had never heard of this guy before I picked this up, and I've never seen anything else by him in the bookstore. But if you like historical fiction, please read this. Highly entertaining.
Article first published as Book Review:Johnny One-Eye by Jerome Charyn on Blogcritics.

In the early years of America, a ragged group of volunteers, led by George Washington, dealt with the American Revolution and fighting for freedom. Many of them began as farmers, and yet become a part of history and recorded as heroes. Many of these men became the forefathers of our nation and are the very reason and beginning of our independence.

In Johnny One-Eye, Jerome Charyn has used history and rumors of
Beverly McClure
Jun 24, 2011 Beverly McClure rated it liked it

War turns lives and countries upside down. And if you’re playing both sides, you‘ll likely spend a lot of time in cellars or prison or the hold of a ship. You might even be tarred and feathered. Just ask Johnny One-Eye.

In JOHNNY ONE-EYE, A TALE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, author Jerome Charyn follows the eight years of the American Revolution in New York. Johnny Stocking, AKA Johnny One-Eye because he lost an eye in Canada with Benedict Arnold, age 17 at the beginning, is a fictional character p
Lenore Webb
Jun 02, 2011 Lenore Webb rated it it was amazing
"Johnny One-Eye" by Jerome Charyn. Yes that is the same Jerome who wrote about Emily Dickenson and Babe Ruth. This time we are visiting the American Revolution through a interesting tale of intrigue and spics that are not quite spies. Oh and let's not forget the ever present 'nunnery' aka the local whore house where everyone gathers. Hey, you have to be able to entertain the troops some how. Actually, I am enjoying this story even if it is a lil on the far fetched side for me. Not sure life ...more
Michelle (True Book Addict)
Jul 24, 2012 Michelle (True Book Addict) rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, read-in-2011
John Stocking, aka Johnny One-Eye is an enigmatic character. Is he a loyalist or a rebel? Is he for the British or for America? Is he George Washington's son or not? None of these questions really get answered, but that's not really a problem in this novel. Charyn succeeds in bringing across the precarious nature of America during the Revolutionary War. The ins and outs of British occupied Manhattan are quite confusing. I found myself scratching my head several times wondering who was on whose ...more
Sarah Michele
Nov 09, 2011 Sarah Michele rated it liked it
I’ve been letting the kiddo pick my books again. This time she did a good job – I was looking for some Michael Chabon but instead she pulled Johnny One-Eye off the shelf.
Johnny One-Eye tells the story of the American Revolution in Manhattan through the eye of the eponymous main character, who may or may not be the bastard son of George Washington. Manhattan fo the time is a city of spies, including Johnny, the “nuns” of Robinson Street (where he was raised until a benefactor got him admitted to
Steve Lozon
Feb 03, 2013 Steve Lozon rated it liked it
This book is like a poor man's 'Known World'. Historical fiction that humanizes an impersonal historical times. I am fascinated with non-fiction that covers the Revolution and the founding of the nation. It is easy to forget that nothing is destiny, and that choices made by Washington, Hamilton, et al, could have drastically changed the course of history and our lives as we know them. This book creates vivid emotional lives for key characters of that era, and illustrates what should be obvious, ...more
Jul 30, 2009 Bibliophile rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, fiction
After all the blurbs on the back cover of my copy of Johnny One-Eye about Jerome Charyn's greatness as a writer, I have to say that I was rather disappointed; it wasn't funny enough to work as a picaresque for me, but at the same time the protagonist wasn't developed enough and there were too many coincidences for the novel to work as straight-up historical fiction. In particularly, I found Clara (Johnny's love interest) really underdeveloped - her major characteristics were that she was angry a ...more
Jul 31, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it
This is a fairly enjoyable read, but missed the mark for me--historical fiction that was too far-fetched to be believable but not enough to succeed as farse. Narrated by an appealing young man, raised in a brothel on Manhattan Island, who lost an eye accompanying Benedict Arnold on his invasion of Canada & who's in love with the unattainable, beautiful "octaroon" that his mother, the brothel's madame, rescued from the streets as a child & who now serves as a spy for General George ...more
Jun 08, 2009 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and I do feel that there's a cracker of a story inside of it. I'm fascinated by all things related to the Revolutionary War and I'm drawn to vivid characterization. But there is too much frivolity in this book for me, too much unnecessary violence, and plenty of man's inhumanity to man without demonstrating that there is any humanity -- however twisted -- behind it. I write this because I was drawn to the author's portrayal of several of the characters -- ...more
Sep 18, 2008 Patrick rated it liked it
This took me awhile to read. The momentum of the book was not very constant, both in terms of chapter length and plot pace. Combined, it made it harder to read than it should have been.

As for the story, despite an arc spanning several years, one does not see much change in the main character (a one-eyed "soldier" who alternates between the British and Americans during the Rev. War). However, you see changes in the side characters, both fictional and historical (Washington, Arnold, etc.). Perhaps
Apr 07, 2008 Janet rated it did not like it
Okay, here's what I wrote when I started this book:
So far I'm absolutely confused at the author's style of writing and find that I am saying "what?" quite a bit. I have only read about 20 pages but will allow at least 50 total before I decide to chuck it or not.

Now, after 90 pages, here's what I have to say:
It is with much regret that I have to say that I must be a total moron because I cannot follow this auther AT ALL. I keep plodding away but to no avail. I was just going to stick it out the w
Thomas Richardson
Dec 03, 2012 Thomas Richardson rated it really liked it
Historical fiction? Yes. Novel? Yes. Straightforward narration and story? Of course not!

I've never been dragged deeper into history than by this novel. I have no overt love for the 1700s. The art: for the most part, boring. Language stilted. Time of the forefathers? Big deal. But after reading the first part of this novel I looked at the typical 1700s style painting that led the next section. A street scene. Suddenly, the entire boring painting had come alive for me. I knew everyone in it. I co
Jul 13, 2011 Angie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
It's an interesting narrative. A lost boy born in America yet loyal to King George. Raised by the nuns (prostitutes) of Manhattan, he lost his eye while campaigning with Benedict Arnold. He lives a grubby life buffeting between the Brits and the "Farmer in chief" (Washington himself). He's more than a fly on the wall. Charyn has made him a friend, enemy, son, lover and father of this new country of America.
D.L. Williams
May 19, 2014 D.L. Williams rated it liked it
I very much enjoyed Johnny One-Eye. I love history and I love humor so this book fit right in. I loved his use of Benedict Arnold (whose great, great, grandmother was a sister to my genealogy line) I loved his description of General Washington, and Manhattan during that era. The author stayed true to the dialect in that time period, and he did a great job of describing people and events.
Sep 10, 2008 Tracey rated it liked it
Adult fiction; historical. Charyn gives an amusing account of what might have been the seedy underbelly of the American Revolution. He gives personality to G. Washington and other historical figues and invents others--prostitutes who become spies and freedmen who become heroes during that time of great change in US history.
Feb 16, 2009 Connie rated it really liked it
A bawdy romp thru American revolutionary days. A fast read, sometimes outrageous and naughty told by the suppossed son of Geo. Washington and a madame. Entertaining. Some insights into living in those times and offers some new angles to view some of the famous and infamous of that era. I'm so glad we now live in the luxury of hygiene!
Jan 09, 2013 Pancha rated it did not like it
The idea is interesting but the author uses archaic grammar forms inconsistently or incorrectly, so that it disrupts reading and irritates one of my pet peeves. I'm going to give it a few more chapters, but I have a feeling I won't be finishing this.

Okay, can't stand it anymore. The language is too distracting.
It reminded me of the Decemberists because it was whimsical. However, the book just couldn't engage my attention or my interest in the characters long enough to finish it. I didn't really particularly care about what happened to Johnny, the main character, which means it just wasn't worth it to continue.
Jul 09, 2010 Debbie rated it liked it
I give this three stars because it was well written, but the enjoyment I got from it was more like a two. The book seemed to be all middle. I never felt like I got a whiff of anyone's motives. The narrator was in a perpetual state of love sickness. Quite a disappointment since from the many glowing reviews I thought it would be a rollicking romp.
Jun 03, 2008 Anna rated it really liked it
A completely different view of the Revolutionary War. Set in Manahattan for the most part, Johnny One-Eye narrates a fresh perspective of the war by the son of a prostitute.
The agonizing difficulty Johnny has in declaring for either side is explored, as well as his accidental forays into espionage.
John Kelley
Dec 03, 2014 John Kelley rated it it was ok
There is rarely a consensus in my book club about a selection, but nobody gave this one a thumb's up. We all wanted so much more from it. While the story was intriguing, the writing was not very good. If they weren't, the love scenes could easily have been nominated for The Guardian's "worst of" list.
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Jerome Charyn was born and raised on the mean streets of the Bronx. He graduated cum laude from Columbia College. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Rice, was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the City University of New York and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the American University of Paris. Charyn is a Guggenheim Fellow and has twice won fellowships from the Nati ...more
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