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Compiled, edited, and newly revised by Ralph Ellison’s literary executor, John F. Callahan, this Modern Library Paperback Classic includes posthumously discovered reviews, criticism, and interviews, as well as the essay collections Shadow and Act (1964), hailed by Robert Penn Warren as “a body of cogent and subtle commentary on the questions that focus on race,” and Going Compiled, edited, and newly revised by Ralph Ellison’s literary executor, John F. Callahan, this Modern Library Paperback Classic includes posthumously discovered reviews, criticism, and interviews, as well as the essay collections Shadow and Act (1964), hailed by Robert Penn Warren as “a body of cogent and subtle commentary on the questions that focus on race,” and Going to the Territory (1986), an exploration of literature and folklore, jazz and culture, and the nature and quality of lives that black Americans lead. “Ralph Ellison,” wrote Stanley Crouch, “reached across race, religion, class and sex to make us all Americans.” From the Trade Paperback edition.


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Compiled, edited, and newly revised by Ralph Ellison’s literary executor, John F. Callahan, this Modern Library Paperback Classic includes posthumously discovered reviews, criticism, and interviews, as well as the essay collections Shadow and Act (1964), hailed by Robert Penn Warren as “a body of cogent and subtle commentary on the questions that focus on race,” and Going Compiled, edited, and newly revised by Ralph Ellison’s literary executor, John F. Callahan, this Modern Library Paperback Classic includes posthumously discovered reviews, criticism, and interviews, as well as the essay collections Shadow and Act (1964), hailed by Robert Penn Warren as “a body of cogent and subtle commentary on the questions that focus on race,” and Going to the Territory (1986), an exploration of literature and folklore, jazz and culture, and the nature and quality of lives that black Americans lead. “Ralph Ellison,” wrote Stanley Crouch, “reached across race, religion, class and sex to make us all Americans.” From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison (Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I recommend the essay "Twentieth Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity". Ellison's analysis of "hard boiled" fiction explained to me what it was that always annoyed me about Hemingway, and the (to me) puzzling prevalence and celebration of writers like Cheever, Updike, Salinger, and Roth -- all celebrating apolitical, bourgeois characters standing for nothing. Ellison is often arch and egotistical, but he was a great prose stylist and did stand for human dignity and equality. I recommend the essay "Twentieth Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity". Ellison's analysis of "hard boiled" fiction explained to me what it was that always annoyed me about Hemingway, and the (to me) puzzling prevalence and celebration of writers like Cheever, Updike, Salinger, and Roth -- all celebrating apolitical, bourgeois characters standing for nothing. Ellison is often arch and egotistical, but he was a great prose stylist and did stand for human dignity and equality.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anthony D'Juan Shelton

    This collection has everything that is in "Shadow & Act" as well as "Living With Music" -- plus more. There are a couple of interviews with Ellison, as well as his "notes" during the writing of "Invisible Man." It was a great find. This collection has everything that is in "Shadow & Act" as well as "Living With Music" -- plus more. There are a couple of interviews with Ellison, as well as his "notes" during the writing of "Invisible Man." It was a great find.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I have a paper copy of this collection and chose to re-read it on my new Kindle as a ceremonial way of breaking it in. This essay collection is perhaps my very favorite. Ellison communicates better than anyone the struggles of American blacks to control their own narrative and fate within a systemic and cultural apparatus that tells them, again and again, what they have to be, what they can't be, and what minimal existence they can look forward to. Ellison doesn't sugar coat the American reality I have a paper copy of this collection and chose to re-read it on my new Kindle as a ceremonial way of breaking it in. This essay collection is perhaps my very favorite. Ellison communicates better than anyone the struggles of American blacks to control their own narrative and fate within a systemic and cultural apparatus that tells them, again and again, what they have to be, what they can't be, and what minimal existence they can look forward to. Ellison doesn't sugar coat the American reality, but he also doesn't offer it up as something where he has no agency. On the contrary, these essays display an incredible array of intellectual and political responses to the structural and cultural realities of racism. What Ellison does that distinguishes him from others on this topic is write about it so clearly, so plainly, and so thoughtfully that you never feel that anything other than the most reasonable position is being advanced. He's also an incredibly caring and thoughtful writer, someone who never provides anything less about his topics and subjects than the greatest care, the most concentrated thoughts, and the most carefully selected words. It's a fantastic collection worth reading again and again, providing loads of insight into the 20th century black experience as well as brilliant ways to discuss popular culture, music, literature, art, and politics in America.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vel Veeter

    I don’t know what to say about a 900 page collection of essays that represent the 50 year career of Ralph Ellison. What I can talk about are some of the various interests, ghosts, and other throughlines that make their way through these essays. He’s a writer who’s very concerned about the racialized criticism of language, of the experiences of Blackness, of literature, and of music. And I guess I mean by that that he’s concerned about each of those items on their own, as well as in the way each I don’t know what to say about a 900 page collection of essays that represent the 50 year career of Ralph Ellison. What I can talk about are some of the various interests, ghosts, and other throughlines that make their way through these essays. He’s a writer who’s very concerned about the racialized criticism of language, of the experiences of Blackness, of literature, and of music. And I guess I mean by that that he’s concerned about each of those items on their own, as well as in the way each is and isn’t racialized in their own way. He’s also a writer who adores writing in a very fetching and earnest way. He’s great at both breaking down problematic writers’ contributions to American Literature while also having a clear affection for them. For all his criticism of Faulkner, Hemingway, and Mark Twain, there’s a kind of reverse avuncularism to his discussion of them. He does not dismiss them because they’re not perfect; he’s disappointed in their imperfections. Throughout his essays, he’s also dealing with his own sense of being a novelist. I’ve always found it really interesting that in all of his interviews he always downplays certain things about himself. He’s always referred to as being a novelist first, but if your only novel comes out in 1950, what can you say about the experiences of being a novelist in 1990 that still has resonance. I don’t think most people consider him a failed novelist by any stretch….given that he wrote one of the most important American novels ever….because his importance to the world becomes a little more singular than I think he’s comfortable with by the end. There’s an interview from the 70s where’s being interviewed by John Hersey, a more minor writer, but also a more prolific one, that strikes me as the crystallization of this version of Ellison that I have. Regardless, his essays on literature are so very good. I found myself skimming his music essays, not because of their quality, but because of my own lack of interest in music (as an application of analysis). I also found myself beyond interested in the French writer Andre Malraux after he’s a touchstone for Ellison in some 10 different essays. This collection is both essay collection Ellison published alongside many additional essays and speeches and interviews given throughout his life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Very uneven collection. An area of concentrated goodness-to-excellence are the essays relating to music, so the slimmer volume "Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings" would be a better bet (especially for a reader who, like me, shares Ellison's love of jazz music). Essays on other topics that proved to be worth reading included his introduction to the collection "Shadow and Act" and the shaggy-dog essay "An Extravagance of Laughter," to name just a couple. However there were some that Very uneven collection. An area of concentrated goodness-to-excellence are the essays relating to music, so the slimmer volume "Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings" would be a better bet (especially for a reader who, like me, shares Ellison's love of jazz music). Essays on other topics that proved to be worth reading included his introduction to the collection "Shadow and Act" and the shaggy-dog essay "An Extravagance of Laughter," to name just a couple. However there were some that I had to skip entirely in order to retain shreds of respect for the man, and other, shorter essays that by the time I had finished them I wished I had skipped. He had a few original insights, but not enough to support the full weight of this volume. Of the interviews, skip all but the one with James Alan McPherson ("Indivisible Man") and the one with John Hersey ("A Completion of Personality").

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris Moore

    I listened to this on Audible so maybe a physical book would be better to dip in and out of . I wanted to hear a sample of Ralph Ellison's work before buying this however all the samples are of the introduction and not representative. This is pretty highbrow and dry for me unfortunately. I wanted to hear his writing on Jazz mainly and there are 3 or 4 essays on the subject however most is on the role of African Americans in 20th Century. His essays range from deeply descriptive and poetic and dr I listened to this on Audible so maybe a physical book would be better to dip in and out of . I wanted to hear a sample of Ralph Ellison's work before buying this however all the samples are of the introduction and not representative. This is pretty highbrow and dry for me unfortunately. I wanted to hear his writing on Jazz mainly and there are 3 or 4 essays on the subject however most is on the role of African Americans in 20th Century. His essays range from deeply descriptive and poetic and dry academic analysis, but too little of the former. And I am left with little idea of his point. It is mainly dry essay and I lasted about 10h in before pulling the plug. There maybe some hidden gems but they are well hidden. Only to be used for as reference for a degree in African American History

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vivian Henoch

    Picking and choosing essays in connection to much of my other reading lately, and as assigned reading in course I've just finished on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Juneteeth - I find myself paging through a kindle version of The Collected Essays. One may struggle through the challenges of Ellison's fiction - but the voice in his essays still illuminate the way in remarkably fresh, fierce and timely writing - worth keeping in your library and perusing in our troubled times. Picking and choosing essays in connection to much of my other reading lately, and as assigned reading in course I've just finished on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Juneteeth - I find myself paging through a kindle version of The Collected Essays. One may struggle through the challenges of Ellison's fiction - but the voice in his essays still illuminate the way in remarkably fresh, fierce and timely writing - worth keeping in your library and perusing in our troubled times.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    50 Years of essays and talks on literature and American culture, still very timely.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ernie

    Ellison is one of the best American essayists of the century. His essays are perhaps even better than his classic, Invisible Man. This collection contains the entirety of Shadow and Act, his most famous essay collection, as well as a series of other interviews and essays. Ellison is as perceptive when writing about literature as he is when doing music criticism, and his thoughts are crucial for those seeking to gain a fuller understanding of the American democratic project as it relates to cultu Ellison is one of the best American essayists of the century. His essays are perhaps even better than his classic, Invisible Man. This collection contains the entirety of Shadow and Act, his most famous essay collection, as well as a series of other interviews and essays. Ellison is as perceptive when writing about literature as he is when doing music criticism, and his thoughts are crucial for those seeking to gain a fuller understanding of the American democratic project as it relates to culture, literature, and race. On top of all of this, Ellison is also a brilliant prose stylist.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ken Hada

    “Invisible Man” is legendary, prophetic and poignant. Yet if you really want to know Ellison, and by extension, the Black experience in the American south, in Oklahoma Territory, and all places that stem from these locales, you need to read his essays. Full of relatively unknown history and cultural insight, they establish him for the great thinker that he was, as well as demonstrating the heroic ingenuity of so many we have often overlooked.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    A wonderful collection of essays on literature, American history and politics, music, and alot more. Ellison's writings on race and racism are thought provoking and relevant to our times today. Ellison's brilliance shines throughout this book. All of the essays should be read over and over. A wonderful collection of essays on literature, American history and politics, music, and alot more. Ellison's writings on race and racism are thought provoking and relevant to our times today. Ellison's brilliance shines throughout this book. All of the essays should be read over and over.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I haven't read this entire book. I read a selection of the essays for an essay that I was writing for class--all of them on the topic of jazz music. I knew nothing about jazz, but the stories told by Ellison were still very interesting to me, and a really enjoyed them. I haven't read this entire book. I read a selection of the essays for an essay that I was writing for class--all of them on the topic of jazz music. I knew nothing about jazz, but the stories told by Ellison were still very interesting to me, and a really enjoyed them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Background reading for Invisible Man.

  14. 5 out of 5

    April

    Haven't read all of it yet but wow. It's great. Haven't read all of it yet but wow. It's great.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beza

    check out invisible man

  16. 5 out of 5

    Babydoll

    This book is a compilation of impressive essays from Ellison that I thoroughly enjoyed. A pretty long read, yet it will not disappoint.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  18. 5 out of 5

    CullenWhisenhunt

  19. 4 out of 5

    Munawar Abbas

  20. 4 out of 5

    Clif

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mason Barlow

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  23. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Baughman

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stefan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Williams

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Wright-watkins

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter Devlin

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