In the book of my memory, after the first pages, which are almost blank, there is a section headed
Incipit vita nova.
Beneath this heading I find the words which it is my intention to copy into this smaller book, or if not all, at least their meaning.

Dante,La Vita Nuova

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Invisible Man

Our next read is Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Gary has read this already, but I haven't. It's always been on my list. I read Native Son last year and it rocked my world. I remember planning one Friday of silent reading with the juniors (I never do silent reading) because I couldn't stop thinking about Bigger Thomas and I wanted to silently read. I'm super-excited about Invisible Man.

Well, I read the author's note, the prologue, which felt sort of like Breakfast of Champions--can I trust the narrator?-- and chapter one. It seems like I've already met three main characters, and in a strange way, aren't they images of each other?

*The author, burdened by the task of creation, of deliberate manipulation of a character to reflect something bigger (the "something" that gets bigger almost in concentric circles, ripples of humanity, even as he ponders it)
*The "invisible" character of old age from the prologue, the product of what the author was able to find: the freedom to laugh the laugh of the blues- then write it down
*The "visible" character of youth from chapter one, the story begins...

All parts of the much larger, scarier, more lamentable picture. OH THE VULNERABILITY OF MAN!! OH THE DEPRAVITY!

Uh, who's being dramatic?

It's just that I am blown away so far. The scene with the whiskey&cigar higher-ups (which I can still picture in NYC--the old white boys club) becoming bellicose with drink; the blonde who sold her soul--naked body but wearing a mask of makeup--and the black boy-boxers trying to hide their erections and their guilt for looking at a white woman; the panicked and savage battle royal--blindfolded--who's fighting who, physically and metaphysically?; the inner-struggle/inner-monologue of our dear protagonist who only wants to prove that he is not savage by delivering a speech about humility--

That's all I've read so far. It's too much to bear for a morning commute to the office!

More to come.


  1. because this is such a monument of a novel--i simply don't understand who'd torture hs students with this super-complex narrative--the first chapter is often anthologized and entitled "Battle Royale."

    so many high school and university students know the novel as or because of chapter one.

    i think it sets the mood and is an interesting tonal contrast with the prologue.

    nevertheless, i'll get i am on 5. i will read to 34 tonight and post by tomorrow. then we can move on to the next chapter or two. where the novel truly opens up with some amazing stories.

    this is simply one of my fave books of all-time sort of thing.

  2. I'm not done with Chapter 1!!

  3. I just finished reading the speech given by "Trueblood" (what a name)...