Review by Choice Review
Wright (Univ. of Minnesota) takes on the audacious task of profiling Ellison's intellectual oeuvre as a novelist, cultural critic, and general man of letters. In particular, he situates Ellison as a "conscious thinker," a term he uses to describe Ellison's various texts as contributing to the project of cultural revision and political struggle. Wright covers Ellison's entire body of work, from the novels and essay collections to the unpublished interviews, speeches, and letters, in order to articulate Ellison's enduring significance as an intellectual and artist. Individual readings situate these works within their cultural milieu; for example, Wright reads Invisible Man as a political novel focused on postwar sociology and black leadership, foreshadowing civil rights era debates on black community politics. In the same vein, he interprets Going to the Territory within the context of the 1980s culture wars in order to demonstrate Ellison's impact on contemporaneous black writers, both rivals and colleagues. A worthwhile contribution to African American studies, this volume complements such recent work as Kenneth Warren's outstanding So Black and Blue (CH, Mar'04, 41-3924) and Ronald Judy and Jonathan Arac's Ralph Ellison: The Next Fifty Years, a special issue of boundary 2 (vol. 30, no. 2, summer 2003). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. E. Magill University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Ellison's Invisible Man, published in 1952, transformed American literature and set the stage for an ongoing debate in black literature, where he was alternately lionized and criticized for his views on the philosophical place of a black man in America. Ellison would spend 40 years living up to the promise of his novel and living down attacks by the radical generation of the black-power movement. Wright, an African American studies scholar, exuberantly explores the philosophical and aesthetic influences behind Ellison's creative development before examining how Invisible Man fit into the sociological and cultural framework of the 1950s and later. Wright also analyzes Ellison's writing techniques and his debate with other writers about the prospect of the novel as a literary form, as well as Ellison's essays during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. In a short epilogue, Wright examines questions regarding Ellison's literary legacy and his uncompleted second novel. Although the book is a bit academic, fans and scholars of Ellison will appreciate this probing examination of his body of work. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2006 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.