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Seven Guitars (The Century Cycle #5)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  658 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
It is the spring of 1948. In the still cool evenings of Pittsburgh's Hill district, familiar sounds fill the air. A rooster crows. Screen doors slam. The laughter of friends gathered for a backyard card game rises just above the wail of a mother who has lost her son. And there's the sound of the blues, played and sung by young men and women with little more than a guitar i ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published August 1st 1997 by Plume (first published 1996)
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Bill  Kerwin

August Wilson is certainly one of the finest playwrights of the 20th century, but this is not one of his finest plays. The usual elements are here: a setting superbly realized in place and time, a large cast of eloquent, mellifluous African American voices, the abiding presence of music, hints of dark magic and ghostly hauntings, and an overwhelming sense of a complex and dangerous cultural heritage. A heritage which may lead to wisdom but can also lead to despair, violence, and death. When Wils
I am going backwards in August Wilson's Century Cycle but hey, I'm at the mercy of my Library and I started with Fences. I like how Wilson writes dialogue. It all seems very authentic. He can literally write about NOTHING and still make it interesting and perhaps a bit allegorical. Such as, in Seven Guitars, a character speaks about how roosters differ from state to state in the South. I don't know how he did it but Wilson made it funny.

It's difficult for me to articulate what Seven Guitars is a
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of Fences, black blues lovers
Recommended to Jil by: Connie Crawford
Shelves: play, school
I just don't care about August Wilson's writing. This read like Fences part II; I know that it's part of Wilson's loose series on the plight of the black man, but it's just not a theme that interests me, especially because it seems like the issue always boils down to "There's no money! The white man is bringing them down! And they're bringing themselves down!"

But this was more than just thematically related to Fences - it also had a crazy man singing all the time and lots of dialect and diatribe
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After seeing this play at Actor's Theatre, I had to read the script. August Wilson wrote a play that is pure poetry, pure blues. "I saw Buddy Bolden/ What he say? He say show me the money/Naw.Naw. He say give me the money. What he give you? He give me ashes." Like a good blues song this play captures the joys and pains of black people who have migrated to Pittsburgh in 1948. This is a play about second chances in life and in love; it's about black people's search for dignity and meaning in a soc ...more
Izetta Autumn
Apr 07, 2008 rated it liked it
This Wilson play is not one of my favorites - but it investigates the relationship between a man, his relationship with a woman, and his attempt to reach his dream. Like Fences, the lead character is a Black man who has a dream, in this case, of making it big as a musician. As in Fences, the powers that be (implicity white power structures) ultimately decide whether or not the dream will be realized. Wilson of course emphasizes the role of the self in reaching one's dreams, but also shows the te ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Like just about every other one of August Wilson's plays, Seven Guitars is a masterpiece. And this is one of the stronger plays in the series. Wilson was one of if not the finest American playwright ever. Hopefully I will eventually manage not only to read every one of his plays (which I've almost done already), but to see each one performed live on stage as well.
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A powerful play loaded with symbolism that is dying to be unpacked.
Courtney H.
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: century-cycle
Luckily I read King Hedley II before reviewing Seven Guitars. I initially thought Seven Guitars was the weakest of the cycle. It was still an excellent play, and as usual Wilson excelled both in the monologue and in creating scenes with a few deft lines that pull out the innards of the whole play and display them raw for the readers (the rooster comes to mind; and of course that final scene with Hedley and Floyd). I also appreciated the format--beginning with Floyd's funeral before reverting bac ...more
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
The fifth of ten plays in Wilson’s the Century Cycle (and the seventh in order of writing), Seven Guitars is the first that was somewhat disappointing to me. Set in 1948 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Seven Guitars begins with neighbors returning from the funeral of Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, a local blues singer.

The play quickly flashes back to the time immediately before Barton’s death and then moves forward to the scene we began at. The play features seven characters, friends, neighbors,
Jessica Barkl
Apr 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well, this has been the most intense of the cycle, yet. I didn't see half of the plot twists coming, and I'm interested to know what happens in KING HEDLEY II based on what King Hedley I did in this play...

The back cover (again, a decent blurb): '"The seven guitars of the title are the seven characters whose straightforward story lines Wilson turns into beautiful complex music -- a funky wailing, irresistible Chicago blues."' - John Lahr, THE NEW YORKER
It is the spring of 1948. In the still coo
Robert Jersak
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Winter of Wilson continues ...

Seven Guitars is somewhat hard to get a handle on. There's a lot of chatter, and the characters can be a bit harder to get a handle on than the folks we get to meet in Fences or The Piano Lesson. There are characters that enter the play to bring peace, and a few others to make war. There's a feeling of "lost and found" that permeates the relationship between main characters, Floyd and Vera. It's the feeling all of us can have when we come into some luck, and the
Jamilla Rice
Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it
So I read it because the play is coming soon to a theater near me, and I had not yet seen this, the 6th play in the decade-long Pittsburgh cycle.

I wasn't missing much.

After reading The Piano Lesson and seeing it performed on stage and screen, this was about as anti-climactic as The Hunger Games film. (Yes. I am going to do that whenever I get a chance. Every time.) Like the film (see) it was lacking in development--development of plot, of character, of symbol, of everything that establishes the
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It pains me to give two stars to August Wilson, but this play had nowhere near the power of Fences or The Piano Lesson. It was just okay for me. I had to fight to push through to the end, and while there is a dramatic ending, it came way too late, and there was not enough rising action or tension. I think that maybe something was lost in merely reading the play and that if I had seen it live, I would have had much more appreciation for what was going on, particularly the blues riffs that are int ...more
Matthew Wilson
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I finished the play last night and thought, like a lot of other readers, that this one was just okay, nothing like my favorite Wilson play, The Piano Lesson. But then as I was lying in bed this morning, not quite awake, I had this revelation about the character Floyd. He goes to jail because of a vagrancy law-- he goes to jail because he has no money! He makes money through music, but his guitar is in the pawn shop. The pawn shop owner wants $50 for the guitar, five time more than what Floyd paw ...more
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an exciting play about Negroes wanting to progress. They want more money and more self control. The Promised Land is to leave Pittsburgh and head for the big city, Chicago. There is a great deal of violence in this play. I can't help but think of black stereotypes. Men always carrying guns and knives. Always at the ready to "cut" someone who does them wrong. What I like the most about this play is the mention of men who were working hard to change the lives of their fellow brothers. Ther ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Seven Guitars is a wonderful two act play, which takes place in the Hill Region of Pittsburgh in the middle of the 20th Century. The majority of the play occurs as a flashback detailing the events that lead up to an incredibly poignant denouement. Wilson's tale follows seven characters, representative of individual instruments, working to create a piece that is far more complex and meaningful than the sum of its parts. This is a quick and enjoyable, highly thought-provoking text.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Of the August Wilson's plays that I have read, "Seven Guitars" was one that I struggled with in order to keep the characters and motivations straight. Probably some of the beauty is lost in reading it versus seeing it performed (and hearing the musical accompaniment), but the story of a blues musician's "dream deferred" in 1940's Pittsburgh has its moments, and I would love to see it performed live.
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting themes. Wilson crammed in so much that the dialogue felt a little forced at times. I didn't like how strange the character of Hedley was as I was reading, but on further reflection that discomfort made the play all the more powerful. I definitely want to hunt down some of Wilson's more highly regarded plays.
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Read for book club but missed the discussion, which I would have loved to have joined, since I didn't enjoy the book (and really wanted to see what other people got out of this book). Although there is some element of suspense, this is more a caricature book of various African American personalities from the 1950s (I think). It just didn't grab my interest.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
Not my favorite Wilson play and I had my issues with how women are written but overall not too bad.

Edit: I saw a production of this and I understood it a lot more. Still my least favorite, but I'm glad I went to see it.
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I saw this live and didn't love it so I was thinking that I wouldn't enjoy reading it as much as the first four plays. It turns out I loved it perhaps the best. The strange mysticism of Hedley and his belief in dreams is fascinating. I read it over and over.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fun book to read!
Feb 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Maybe I'm getting a bit bored of the plays all having similiar plot lines at this point.
As always beuatiful monologues.
But the ending always seems to be the same.
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's kind of loose and unfocused but still pretty brilliant. I get the Wilson thing now. And I loved Chicago blues already so that made it easy.
Sep 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
not as convincing as Fences, but still very good.
Apr 04, 2010 added it
would like to see the play... reading plays are strange. i ain't gonnuh star it neitha.
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: play
Floyd: "I don't want to live my life without. I don't want to do that. I want to live with. I don't know what you all think of yourself, but I'm supposed to have."
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Read this in English 52: 20th Century Drama with Professor Donald Pease.
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
great, as usual with wilson.
Seven Guitars was ok. I'm beginning to think that you miss alot when you read a play as opposed to seeing it performed. Hopefully the rest of the Century Cycle gets better. Next up is Fences.
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August Wilson was an American playwright. His literary legacy is the ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fourth
More about August Wilson

Other Books in the Series

The Century Cycle (10 books)
  • Gem of the Ocean
  • Joe Turner's Come and Gone
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • The Piano Lesson
  • Fences (The Century Cycle #6)
  • Two Trains Running
  • Jitney
  • King Hedley II
  • Radio Golf

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“I cried a river of tears but he was too heavy to float on them. So I dragged him with me these years across an ocean.” 13 likes
“I just want to come and sit on your front porch and drink mint juleps.” 3 likes
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