Dust on the Bookshelf

Invisible Man and dreams of eviction
February 9, 2012, 17:38
Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , , ,

“it’s so…… slimy, it feels oozy, if you know what i mean, in this way that it just slides into me and slithers around and makes me feel real funny.”

Those are the words of a friend describing her experience reading Invisible Man (1952). I would concur, it is an experiential this read. I am usually (too) emotionally affected by things I read, see post “on alternating,” but this novel by Ralph Ellison is particularly disturbing. My mood and physicality were altered throughout the 500+ pages of the unnamed narrator’s recount. He is now up there with my favorite male protagonists, just behind Ignatius J. Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces.

I read the last few chapters on my recent transatlantic flight from Philly to Paris and immediately passed out upon the book’s completion. My subsequent dream centered around eviction, a major reoccurring theme/event in the text, and I believe the word “dispossessed” was even spoken by some dream-character. To quickly summarize, dream-me was some sort of street-folk visual artist and the tenant next door (an unrecognized Harvard TF) was missing, no where to be found.

Finishing Invisible Man was something like a race, so fast-paced and intense that my eyes could barely keep up with the words on the page. In a way the ending is abrupt, though the ultimate conflict was expected; I was anxious for the narrator to see the problems with the Brotherhood. The final riot scene is surreal and its almost humorous looting harks painfully back (or forward I guess) to the looting after Hurricane Katrina.

I think everyone at some point has the desire to “fall in a manhole,” to escape the above ground world and rest awhile. It’s a fantastic image–true fantasy. A cartoon really. Plop! And he’s out of the picture! And Wiley Coyote runs ignorantly overhead. Because this book is so upsetting, disturbing, “oozy,” I think everyone should read it. To finish, here is an image inspired by the book’s amazing prologue: Jeff Wall’s “After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue”