How do I even start off about this work of literature?
I could tell you I enjoy long, detailed, love-infused narratives.
I could tell you that polished prose excites me, or that skillful devices thrill me because they show me exactly what a piece of writing can be—encourage me to do my best.
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man contains all of these. From the first pages of the Introduction by the author, I was intrigued by him; and as his nameless narrator begins a complex, near-perfectly-paced story of his trip from the South to New York, my admiration redirected onto this transparent human being. So, without further ado, here is my adulation and advice on why you should pick up a copy of Invisible Man!
- Ellison’s skill in and care for writing will encourage you as a writer.
They say one of the most crucial activities for writers is picking up lots of reading material. We might as well choose works that challenge us, mechanically and inspirationally. Ellison had me highlighting passage after passage simply because they spoke to me. His world building is absolutely captivating. Imagery enhances his world, moods, and plot in a holistic way that appeals to the senses and entices the mind. One of my favorite instances of this is actually from a street fight, believe it or not. “He spat angrily into the dark street. It flew pink in the red glow.” Vivid, tangible colors and smells (he describes candied yams in another passage that makes you crave them!) that excite the imagination.
I found myself wanting to pay closer attention to details around me, just in case I get a burst of inspiration to describe the universe like he does.
- Ellison is real and relatable.
In the introduction, the author is quick to tell us this work has been seven years in the making. As a writer and a human being, that is remarkably reassuring to me: someone who’s honest about their growth is someone I can see sitting down with for coffee. Additionally, he provides motivation to make a difference with whatever kind of work you do: his experiences in writing “suggested to [him] that a novel could be fashioned as a raft of hope, perception and entertainment that might help keep us afloat as we tried to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation’s vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal.” It’s difficult to find contemporary writers with both honesty and a certain amount of optimism. It seems the literary world is constantly growing fuller of woeful tales, and Ellison is refreshing. His nameless narrator, simultaneously likeable and realistically flawed (he lives in a secret space that’s pretty much underground with a plethora of light bulbs), is also rendered sympathetic.
- The novel spans a multitude of walks of life.
Not only is there racial tension, which takes a central thematic position in the work, but there’s so many more realms of life examined within it: religious battles, clashes of interests in academia, the sufferings of minimum wage workers, homesickness, familial strife, desire, loneliness, and just flat out questioning of what it means to exist, to be human, and to be known– all enmeshed in a masterfully told narrative about a man who moves from the South to New York. No matter who you are, some part is bound to strike a chord with you like it did with me.
During the epilogue, I sat back for a minute and thought about the narrator’s thoughts—haha, I suppose that’s when books really begin to influence our world. A lot of times, we strive for life’s next stage. But if it’s at the expense of not enjoying the present… We only have so many “snapshots” and blessings to savor. The Invisible Man taught me not to put pressure on myself about tomorrow, but to slow down, be content where I am, and take in everything around, good and not so good.
Lastly, Ellison reminded me in an extremely artful and somehow gentle way that we are not defined by other people—your value is infinitely more than a piece of paper could ever communicate.
So read it! 😀 Or leave a comment telling me what you ARE reading, currently. 🙂