Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Vintage, 1995.
Reason read: February is National Black History Month.
Invisible Man’s nameless southern protagonist forces the reader to run the gamut of emotions: by turns we are frightened, touched, shocked, amused, even pitying and hopeful. When we first meet him, he lives on the hem of society in an unused part of the basement of a building for whites. He steals shelter and electricity like a boogeyman. He is truly invisible. There comes a point in time when he tries to reach the light by going to college only to be expelled after being accused of offending a white man. Invisible again. Through various trials and tribulations this nameless young man finally makes it to New York where he is confronted with the reality of his race. His lack of identity allows him to be mistaken for someone else. As he becomes more and more invisible, the more and more I wanted him to rage against it. The problem is, when you are a young black man trying to escape the white man’s thumb in the 1940s, rage is the last emotion you are allowed to express. Every endeavor leads him closer to destruction. Like a horror movie, I wanted to read Invisible Man with one eye closed against all the gross misunderstandings prejudice and racism can bring.
Quote to quote, “The light is the truth, and truth is the light” (p 7).
Author fact: Ellison was a literary scholar and essayist in addition to a novelist.
Book trivia: Modern Library called Invisible Man one of the top 100 novels of all time. Others have used words like monumental and epic to describe it. It won a National Book Award in 1953.
Playlist: Louis Armstrong’s “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue?” Dvorak’s New World Symphony, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Old Man river,”
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Invisible Man except to include it in a list of one hundred good reads.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1950s” (p 177).