Ron Peters's Reviews > Invisible Man

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

This book is simultaneously good and confusing. It’s nicely written, reflecting bits of Dostoevsky (parts of it derive, with a wink and a nudge, from Notes from Underground) and it’s Whitmanesque in its more poetic sections. Throughout, it is infused with his own unique verbal jazz. And it also allows you to look long inside the heart and mind of a man who is a sincere thinker, who is giving you the fruits of his contemplation on what it means to be a black man, and a human being, in America.

It’s also confusing because, in the end, he comes to no firm conclusions, no solution for how to become visible to the world and to live a meaningful life. “I [only] knew that it was better to live out one’s own absurdity than to die for that of others.” It also contains a tremendous amount of tightly packed information. For me, at least, it will take more than one reading to make better sense of my initial impressions.

For sure, its central theme is individual identity. It took a while before I even realized that you never get to know who the narrator is. He is invisible because no one in the book, black or white, sees him as himself, as an individual. In this sense, while it is decidedly about the Black experience in America, this novel is not about race, except in a negative sense. “For the first time, lying there in the dark, I could glimpse the possibility of being more than a member of a race.” So, my take at this point is that the book is more about one man’s exploration of how to achieve individuality and humanity, and to help the world to welcome diversity, than it is about what, nowadays, we call identity politics.
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Reading Progress

November 22, 2021 – Started Reading
November 22, 2021 – Shelved
November 22, 2021 – Shelved as: fiction
November 22, 2021 –
page 81
November 25, 2021 –
page 231
November 29, 2021 –
page 529
November 30, 2021 –
page 581
November 30, 2021 – Finished Reading

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