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5.0 out of 5 starsBeautiful Prose Packed With Wonders Of Insight And Interpretation
Reviewed in the United States on June 26, 2020
Why read at all? To learn, obviously, and sometimes for entertainment. But also to be uplifted and refreshed, to see more clearly, with nuance and perceptiveness, to think more deeply with greater comprehension and refinement of insight, and Maybe, more importantly, to extend one’s sympathy, to enlarge the heart with greater compassion and magnanimity. Not every author can help you do that, but many can, and some stand head and shoulders above the rest in their ability to make the world a richer, grander more humane and habitable a place. Ralph Ellison is one of those writers, maybe the greatest American essayist since Ralph Waldo Emerson. If any book deserves the epithet ‘heaven-sent’, this one does. Read these wide-ranging essays on literature and music, especially jazz, on culture, on the struggles and suffering and meaning of being Black in America..... read then with pleasure, admire the elegant perfections of the prose, but mostly to become more truly and honestly human through the ennobling humanity of their accomplished vision. Very highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2017
This is a nearly 1000-page collection of Ellison's essays, drawn from previous collections and prefaced by his friend Saul Bellow. As one would expect (and hope), many visit his classic work, "Invisible Man": his notes and sketches, afterwords, and reflections on the book that forever put him on the map of American fiction. There's far more to this collection than that, however: reminiscences, often painful yet lovely, of his life and maturity during America's tumultuous twentieth century. (Whether the United States has ever known a century without tumult is a good question.) Had not "Invisible Man" overshadowed his career, Ellison might well have been remembered for such essays as are bountifully collected here, elegantly written, brimming with deep humanity. The person that emerges from the words remains extraordinarily intelligent, passionate, eloquent, kind-hearted, courageous, probing, and humane. He viewed the world around him critically but with compassion and great heart. He refused to be defined by color or ideology, by bogus optimism or nihilistic despair. This remarkable collection of essays—in my edition, beautifully bound in hard covers, on paper of good quality and easy-to-read print—exhibits not only one of our finest authors but a person with a capacious soul: truly, one to be judged by "the content of his character." Most highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 starsA man of astounding intellect, passion, courage and warmth
Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2013
Mr. Ellison was the writer, first and foremost, that inspired me to write.
The virtuosity of his prose, its complexity for the sake of revealing insights, sometimes unpopular, but always bone honest, will leave you in awe of his intellect, his passion, courage and warmth.
He hits his stride the best with me when he talks about jazz, and how it reflects the society into which it was born. There are passages here I reread for inspiration, when I need to be reminded why one is called to write.
5.0 out of 5 starsRalph Ellison, more than just Invisible Man
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 10, 2012
Excellent collection of essays by Ralph Ellison, author of arguably the finest piece of 20th century American literature Invisible Man. Thoughtfully written and thought provoking too. A good companion to anyone studying American literature at degree level. Comprehensive collection and all his major writing is here, just great!