The Invisible Man

October's book on my New Year's Reading List was The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

I have to tell you that after reading the first chapter of this book, I didn't want to go on.  I was depressed and almost sick to my stomach.  But then I soldiered on.

Here's what Time Magazine had to say about it when picking it for it's Top 100 Novels:
A nameless young black man wends a tortuous path from a southern town — where a local white men’s club mockingly awards him a scholarship to a black college — to the streets of New York City, where everybody, black and white, left and right, man and woman, seems to have their own ideas about who he is and what purpose he can serve. Evenhandedly exposing the hypocrisies and stereotypes of all comers, Invisible Man is far more than a race novel, or even a bildungsroman. It’s the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century.
After the first chapter, I found that he (our main character and narrator has no name so I'll just refer to him as 'he') sort of bugged me.  I sympathized terribly for him at first but then after a while I found myself sort of wishing he'd grow up.  He floated around trying to be what others wanted him to be but it didn't seem that he gave much thought to what he wanted.   Of course, when I got to the final chapter I realized that was sort of the point.

Although this is a very disturbing book I think it ended on a hopeful note - which I liked.

I also found myself comparing my experience as a woman with his experiences.  Although the book is clearly about racism, it is also about so much more.  It's about being disenfranchised.  It's about trying to meet others' expectations without taking your own thoughts and wishes into account.  I thought a lot about Virginia Woolf's book, Three Guineas, while I was reading The Invisible Man.   Although they are vastly different, they touch on many of the same themes.  That sort of universal truth is I suppose what makes this a great book.

Next up:  Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (This one fills me with dread).

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