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Journal of No. 118

January 21st, 2012

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison @ 04:17 pm

I confess to a deep-seated, long-standing, irrational aversion to this book. Decades ago, I saw it in a bookstore in the little section of Staff Recommendations. Aha, I frisked, HG Wells! But no, some impostor had sliced off the definite article and substituted some other work!

Nevertheless, the damn thing won a National Book Award, and somehow at long last my resentment alchemically transformed into obligation. I really didn't know what to expect; I guess I was imagining something like Black Like Me, but fiction and written by a black dude.

Though there's some of that, what was most surprising was how much of it is comic/satirical. Another interesting strength is an occasional focus on eloquent public speaking, whether the black preacher, the communist agitator, or the Caribbean black nationalist. Less satisfactory is a rather heavy-handed use of symbolism, and other passages that might be described as experimental, poetic, or my descriptor of choice... confused. Sadly, these become more frequent near the end. I enjoyed the first 2/3ds, but the last third was rather a hard slog.
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Date:January 22nd, 2012 03:31 am (UTC)
That was pretty much my experience with it, too. Ellison totally won me over on page 1 with his million lightbulbs, and then slowly lost me as the book progressed. I ended up never finishing it.

Journal of No. 118