…the world is just as concrete, ornery, vile, and sublimely wonderful as before, only now I better understand my relation to it and it to me.
It’s great that I can look up “Invisible Man” on Tumblr and find people who sincerely love this book. There are a lot of posts about that other Invisible Man, and posts by angry AP Honors English students, but once you cut through those, you find that the book still means something to those who read it. They’re drawn to it not just as required reading for a class, but to satisfy an unarticulated need. It taught me a little about how to understand my life, so it feels like a part of me.
It’s an imperfect novel. He gets cutesy with names, the second half doesn’t feel as refined as the first, and there aren’t a whole lot of nuanced or believable female characters. Couldn’t the same be said of me? What’s the word for when you’re angry that your most embarrassing writing is sad imitation of your current literary fixation? In my subliminally derivative attempts to rewrite certain scenes from it, I could understand, through my own experimentation, that writing a book this complex is really fucking hard. It’s a miracle that something so complicated fit into less than 600 pages, and even if I tried extra hard, I doubt I could write a piece of fiction that even begins to approach maybe thinking about trying to be at that level. But maybe it’s worth trying.
President Obama has said that it’s one of his favorite books ever. I highly recommend reading (or rereading) Invisible Man with this fact in mind. Especially since Clint Eastwood made this very literal at the Republican National Convention.
The very act of trying to put it all down has confused me and negated some of the anger and some of the bitterness. So it is that now I denounce and defend, or feel prepared to defend. I condemn and affirm, say no and say yes, say yes and say no. I denounce because though implicated and partially responsible, I have been hurt to the point of abysmal pain, hurt to the point of invisibility. And I defend because in spite of all I find that I love. In order to get some of it down I have to love. I sell you no phony forgiveness, I’m a desperate man—but too much of your life will be lost, its meaning lost, unless you approach it at much through love as through hate. So I approach it through division. So I denounce and I defend and I hate and I love.
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man