Ralph EllisonYesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, one of the greatest American novels. At The New Yorker, David Denby writes a thoughtful assessment of Ellison and the novel.
“Invisible Man” is a tumultuous book, an enormous book, liberated and responsible at the same time, a novel that, even now, turns readers upside down...Ellison presents American experience with a luscious eloquence and an abandon corralled by a stern sense of form...I first read Invisible Man twenty-five years ago, shortly after graduating college. I loved it, even though not all of it made sense to me. After reading Denby's piece, I re-read the first chapter of the novel, and it's as marvelous as ever. I'm toying with the idea of interrupting my reading schedule to re-read the whole thing.
I've long often puzzled over Ellison's inability to publish a second novel, which he worked on relentlessly for decades, right up to his death. Which makes Denby's conjecture - that Ellison never finished his second novel because he already said everything he needed to say in Invisible Man - quite intriguing. That could very well be the case - it's certainly a huge book with a lot going on in it.