brian 's Reviews > Black Boy

Black Boy by Richard Wright
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Mar 01, 09

it was amazing

i’m in the minority (minority. heh heh.) in finding this book superior to ellison’s invisible man. it might not be as daring, perhaps, might lack the touch of modernist irony, but sometimes you shove all that aside and recognize a great book for just being a great book -- something i defy all y’all in saying ellison’s book is not!

the other night a friend told me this joke:

a black guy, a jew, and a mexican walk into a bar.
the bartender says, “get the fuck out!”

now it’s all in the delivery, but i think that’s a great joke. and it’s also kinda deliciously subversive and taking the piss out of racist assholes in the form of a joke that typically’d be all about sticking it to the nigger, kike, or wetback.

yay progress!

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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (new)

Jessica no, I don't agree with you...but appreciate your enthusiasm!

message 2: by Jessica (last edited Mar 01, 2009 09:50AM) (new)

Jessica It's been a long time since I've read both, and I read Black Boy for a class and Invisible Man on my own, but I would say this: for me, IM is the greater work of literature. You know (unfortunately) so much comes down to taste...BB is realism written large, and that's not my cup of tea. Because for me, so-called 'realism' is a genre like any other. Only it's not regarded that way. It gets the label "realistic." For me, IM was more real, more terrifying. It's the more introspective of the two novels, which is how I prefer my literature.
hope that helps brian.

message 3: by Pinky (new)

Pinky I'm with Jessica--just trying to leech off her clarity in that comment--but I dig the joke, and (as usual) your passion. I like Wright better than Di Pietro or Gold or some of his other social realist contemporaries.... but the genre doesn't shake me the way other approaches do.

message 4: by brian (last edited Mar 01, 2009 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   i agree with you guys that realism is merely another formal decision or 'genre' and one that i don't usually flip out over, but, with black boy it was the slowness and the walking-through, the process of wright's discoveries and revelations that interested me far beyond all the speeches and monologues that the peripheral characters in invisible man constantly foisted on the protagonist. i've oversimplified, of course, but i appreciated watching the process rather than the more formulaic and passive manner in which i saw it happen with the ellison's invisible man.

also - i loved loved loved watching wright develop a passion for the world and for people through books... his all-consuming love for pulp mags of the 20s which developed into an obsession for mencken and proust and dreiser and dostoyevsky... argh! i loved it! and it reminded me of my favorite scene in bob dylan's chronicles vol 1 in which a broke and young bobby zimmerman, stuck in a friend's nyc apartment as shelter from a frigid winter, devours his book collection... i suspect dylan (that notorious pilferer!) had black boy in mind with that scene!

message 5: by Jessica (last edited Mar 01, 2009 01:24PM) (new)

Jessica you know what? I haven't read this book...I'm confusing it with a novel by Wright ('Native Son', I think), which I did read. That said, why compare an autobiography with a novel, brian? doesn't seem fair. They're completely different kettles of fish.

brian   jessica: the two books are frequently compared as they're (the narrative, at least) extremely similar. both feature young black kids who learn quick what it means to be black in pre-civil rights america and end up traveling to a major city and falling in with communists. and i suspect that much of ellison's book is autobiographical as well.

message 7: by Jesse (new)

Jesse yeah i think that both books have just as much autobiographical material in them, but i still think "invisible man" is a better book. again the reason being that it takes the struggles of a black man growing up in a racist society and turn it into a universal story about the angst of being insignificant, while for me "black boy" is just a bit more provincial (to crib from ellison himself), but i doubt i'm gonna convince you; if you openly state that a novel as universally acclaimed as "im" is not good, you for damn certain had your mind made up before stating the opinion. but still, i'm interested in some more specifics about what you didn't like about "im". i know there was a lot of theory masquerading as dialogue, but that was the milleu that ellison grew up in: people actually talked that way at "new masses", so i doubt think it done in an ayn rand kinda way. what do you think?

also if you didn't like "im" you should check out ellison's story "flying home", its a brilliant story and really the one where he faces the thing he feared most, being ignorant like other blacks of his day.

Dave Russell I enjoyed Black Boy more than Invisible Man is precisely because it was more "provincial." It showed me a part of the world that was real, unlike the slightly fantastic world of Ellison's Harlem, a part that I would never experience. It didn't ask me to identify with the angst of the main character (as if such a thing were possible.) It didn't try to tell me something about all men. It was less ambitious and therefore more successful. Wright's experiences were specific and they were his own, and I feel a little more enlightened about the world for having read about them.

Ellie It is like comparing an Ansel Adams photo of the Snake River to a Monet painting of the Seine River. They might share a similar subject, a body of water, but that is where the similarities end.

message 10: by Jed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jed dont curse! I fucking hate it!

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