December 5, 2015

It’a My Vacation Reading Month

As I take my vacation from reading crime fiction, mostly to rest my mind from the fictional violence, I plan to read two novels.

The first is Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth, his second novel, which he was still working on when he died in 1994. His literary executor, with the help Ellison’s widow, edited the novel, which was published 1999. The title is a reference to June 19, 1865, the date abolition of slavery was announced in Texas. The date became Juneteenth, a holiday many of us African Americans celebrate on June 19.  

The second novel is Edgar Allan Poe’s Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. I don’t remember why I chose Poe’s novel. I think it’s because I read most of his short stories but neglected to read the novel during my Poe phase.

My family and I wish all of you a MERRY CHRISTMAS.


Kelly Robinson said...

I'm only familiar with INVISIBLE MAN. Please let us know what you think of it. Merry Christmas!

Louis A. Willis said...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Sorry it took me so long to read your comment. I’ve been busy reading Juneteenth and recently finished Poe’s Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.
I read Invisible Man in the 1960s when I was studying Black Literature for a course that my professor in American literature asked me to give a lecture on Black Literature. I read it again about 10 years later. Both times I considered it to be one of the canonical American novels, along with those of Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and other writers of the Harlem Reconnaissance. Of course, Ellison wrote the novel years after the reconnaissance.
I feel that unlike Wright’s Native Son, Invisible Man is more than a protest novel and more complex. It is a novel of survival. Black folks make themselves visible to white folks who refuse to see them by putting on the mask. The narrator’s grandfather tells him how to survive among the white folks: “’Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion’s mouth. I want you to overocme’em with yeses, undermine’em with grins, agree’em to death and destruction, let’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.’”
As I read the novel, I felt that Invisible Man should have been included in the American Literature course.