The Clare Spark Blog

August 14, 2020

Invisible Man, (1952) reread

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 1:05 am

I recently reread Ralph Ellison’s masterpiece, and was shocked by how current it was, in light of the BLM-led urban unrest, including looting. Was also surprised by how my memory of the initial read was mistaken. This blog outlines the discrepancies.

Of course, the book is written as a confession about despair that anything will ameliorate the awful racism following slavery. Ellison moves from material over the “battle royal” to a shocked white trustee of his college at the morality of a black man guilty of having sex with both his wife and daughter, to a bar having the name of the Golden Day, to his anti-hero moving to Harlem, to a dangerous job at a white-controlled paint company, to his misadventures with a leftist (Communist) movement, to shelter with a black woman (“Mary”) to a flirtation with black nationalism (Ras The Destroyer), to his confused identity with a look-alike named Rinehart, to a looting race riot in Harlem, and his life underground.

I was struck by my recollection of the novel: I had remembered it as follows: Ellison’s invisible man had left the communist party (as I had been forcibly separated from KPFK-FM. Pacifica Radio and the local “art world”); the “hero” had moved back with Mary; and of course had forgotten how current the ending was (the looting and burning). Also failed to remember the sexual encounters with white women. Be warned about my blogs, in which I relied on memory. And of course, the big item, was Ellison’s black nationalism (disavowed in the novel, along with despair). ( I have not consulted the internet entries on Ellison or his novel.)

Was “Invisible Man,” Ellison’s masterpiece? I don’t know. But was struck by how much Ellison rhymed with the current Democratic Party.

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