Jim Grimsley's Reviews > Juneteenth

Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
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it was ok

It's difficult to discuss this book, given that I was so enthralled by Invisible Man. I had heard that Ellison struggled for many years with a second novel and bought this some years back when it was published, but then heard that it was very uneven in quality and so it languished in my reading pile for a long time. I am glad that I did finally read it but wonder how Ellison would feel about its publication. He could certainly have allowed its release in his lifetime if he wished. But he didn't. The book has episodes that make the reading worthwhile - the birth of Bliss, the Juneteenth episode, the Sister Georgia chapter. In terms of its parts this is very fine work. But there is a static quality to the whole, brought about by its design as a discourse between Hickman and Bliss/Sunraider. Whatever energy the narrative gathers is nullified by the static moment of the present, when Hickman watches over the Senator in the hospital, and when they talk about the past, about history, about all the ideas that concern them. It is easy to assert that Ellison never brought this fragment of his second novel into clarity - easy because that is what decades of gossip about him have said - but there is something missing in this book. Or perhaps there was something so transcendent and present about Invisible Man that one can't help wishing this second book was more like that first one.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 3, 2021 – Shelved

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