Monday, August 15, 2011

Like jazz

Ralph Ellison, famous for Invisible Man, has often been criticized for being too personal and not political enough in his depiction of black American life, and for freely using European writing styles thus not contributing to the advancement of a distinctive African-American style.  That surely accounts for Ellison not being in the same class as "politically black" writers such as Toni Morrison, but does that really deserve of criticism?

This unnamed anti-critic offers a jazz-supported defense of Ellison:
Ellison drew heavy fire for being, in their view, politically disengaged and removed from the collective plight of black America. A lifelong lover of jazz, Ellison sought to create its literary equivalent. Invisible Man follows the stylistic foundations of jazz by using discordant rhythms, drawing on other literary works, and synthesizing prior traditions into a new art form.
Makes one want to read Ellison again, this time with jazz playing in the background. Jazz is good, jazz metaphors are better.

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