What I Just Read – Invisible Man

Despite what you might think, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is not about a man who is invisible.

edit: There was a picture of the book cover here, but I think this is actually fairly apropos.

I wish I had more to say about this book, because it really is an excellent story.  Ellison crafts a story that can be incredibly subtle at times and brutally straightforward at others.  He details and completely deconstructs an image of an America that was just beginning to believe itself cured of racism, or at least of groups of people that posed as such.  The world of Invisible man is full of ideologues who become so obsessed with power or position that they lose sight of any of the ideals they purport to believe in.  Whether it’s the dean of a southern black college willing to see every one of his students lynched to keep his position, or a communist organization willing to sacrifice all of Harlem for the sake of their propaganda, every organization that the main character seeks assistance and empowerment from turns out to betray him in the end.  The book doesn’t offer any sort of solution for these issues, beyond the need for independent thought and credulity, but I don’t feel like that’s a cop out in anyway.

From a prose perspective I do feel that the narrator can sometimes lose the reader in the deeper self-meditations, and Ellison occasionally worked to be so subtle that they aren’t really appreciated without a tiresome attention to detail.  I was also a bit disappointed that the metaphysical unreality that is explored in the introduction never shows up again.  I was set up to expect this to be a look at the world through a skewed lens, but the bulk of the story was told through a much more concrete fiction.  Beyond that though, I can’t think of much else to say that hasn’t already been said in a thousand college literature courses and literary journals.

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