Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison | Read-along

MY RATING : 

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

15170864Not to be mistaken with H.G. Wells’s Invisible Man (see the gif), this classic by Ralph Ellison brings another definition to being invisible. Indeed, while H.G Wells’s novel talks about the real power of invisibility in a science fiction genre, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man refers to it as a racist and ethnic term. This phenomenal classic from 1952 retells the journey of a black man in a 1930s America and how racism rages on and divides him.

For this occasion, me and Lashaan were reading along this classic so I thought it would be interesting to share both point of views. We had the same rating (4 stars) and were completely amazed by the story.

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writing

We both agreed that its timeless prose illustrates how this novel has shaped or even reshaped American Literature. The strength resides in its poetic ferocity and sharpness. I’ve read a lot of books dealing with racism and they always have a documentary vibe kind of text to it. But Ralph Ellison does not want us to look at in a documentary and realistic truth but by living through an emotional introspection with a savage comedy and through other people’s expectations of what’s it like to be an Invisible Man in those years.

Invisible Man is one of those novels that has so much content that the mind would never be able to grasp in a single reading. Even despite its length, upon completion, it felt like there was ten times more words that were hammered into my conscience.”- Lashaan. 

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Shoutout to Luke Cage for featuring this book 😉

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“I was personally very satisfied by the angles Ralph Ellison took in displaying a man who was hunted by the final words of his grandfather and his progressive comprehension of it. I loved how the book explored various political attempts to fight racism and how to overcome it, while showing the darker schemes at play. I adored the whole collective identity versus individual identity dilemma that was brought to light, and even more the contrast put forth between black/white, dark/light and blindness/sight that ran throughout the book.” -Lashaan 

Of course the book addresses racism, identity questions and the ideology of that period. But what I find even more interesting and very subtle in the book is the theme of love… or should I say the absence of it. The narrator (who’s nameless as if he’s..INVISIBLE! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) rejects love on every level throughout the book for the fact that it endangers his own ambitions until the end where he realizes the nebulous truth: (Spoiler: highlight to see it): « that love is not a person, nor an object, it’s simply the enemy of hate, it’s an idea. ».

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overall

The only reason why it wasn’t a 5 stars novel for me is that pace, sometimes it was hard to continue for the fact some moments were just slow to me. The perfect illustrations are his dream sequences were somehow redundant. The novel didn’t reach to me profoundly nor it was #mindblowing experience. The force is in the writing and how he delivers his journey.

The length of this story however felt unwarranted. There are sequences that could have been cut out in order to improve the rather slow pace that the novel had. With or without these moments (some of the dreams, as Trang pointed out), the story would have held the same punch and delivered its message with the same grace. It is still nice to note that the whole story had a very strong dream-like vibe, letting the reader wonder if the narrator is in a dream or in reality. Kafkaesque? Let’s call it Ellisonesque.

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Invisible Man is thoroughly an amazing novel. I believe its essence can be even more admired once contextualized and investigated in its historical significance.” – Lashaan 

Believe me, this book won’t disappoint you ! Have you read it ? 🙂 If you ever reviewed this book too, leave the link below so that we can check it out !

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29 thoughts on “Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison | Read-along

  1. LizScanlon says:

    Stellar review!
    I have not read this book, but it’s definitely going on the tbr pile for some future attention! You managed to tease with some interesting observations of the book I do not want to miss!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. xtine says:

    Great review! I read Invisible Man in January if you want to check it out ~ https://cewritesx.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/review-invisible-man/

    I agree that the pacing was the most frustrating part. There were certainly moments that felt way too drawn out, but that was such a stylistic thing up until very recently. I definitely had a love-hate relationship with the lengthy almost stream-of-consciousness bits, but I felt overall it was a really powerful book to read.

    Like

  3. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    Wow this sounds like a great book, and it’s all great you both enjoyed it and rated it the same given it was a readalong. 🙂
    It sounds like there are a lot of important themes in this book that were well written which is always a plus. I haven’t read many books with nameless narrators but I think they must be hard to get right, I’m glad this book was one you both enjoyed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Donna says:

    This review just blew my mind! I am extremely curious about this book I had never heard of (of course, staying away from all things resembling classics doesn’t help!!)
    I love that there are layers of heavy subjects but that it doesn’t sound like a documentary, sometimes a story loses its essence when the writer wants to push their message and makes the book feel less like a real story and more like a big lesson, harder to swallow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Zezee says:

    I have it but haven’t read it. However, I did fake reading it for a college class once! 😀 I guess that doesn’t count though.
    I would like to revisit it though.
    I like that new term: Ellisonesque.

    Liked by 1 person

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