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Juneteenth

von Ralph Ellison

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693625,368 (3.33)18
The story of a black man who passes for white and becomes a race-baiting U.S. senator. When he is shot on the Senate floor, the first visitor in hospital is a black musician-turned-preacher who raised him. As the two men talk, their respective stories come out. An unfinished novel by the author of Invisible Man.… (mehr)
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A very strange book -- I found sections of it very interesting, for example the first experience of watching a movie in the 1910s or 20s, the connection between religion and theatre. The plot itself is almost non-existent but strange. The one big minus point for me was the heavy focus on lengthy sermons -- I sort of get why they are, but it is just not my cup of tea. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
Sometimes the story about the story is much more interesting than the tale itself. Take for example the story of Ralph Ellison's second novel. Following his award-winning debut, Invisible Man, there was undoubtedly intense pressure on Ellison to triumph. Before he'd even finished Invisible Man in 1952, Ellison was working on his second novel. He hoped to create an intense and epic story, one he imagined would be a thousand pages, possibly split into three volumes. He worked on this second novel throughout much of the next decade. The contract with his publisher stipulated a completion date in 1967. Though he was behind, Ellison had much of the novel completed, but his manuscript was the victim of a house fire that same year. Some of the manuscript survived (perhaps Ellison had a copy or it was at a different location), but nearly four hundred pages had been destroyed. Immediately, Ellison set to work, trying to put the broken pieces back together. Decade after decade, he worked on his second novel, but he never finished the task. For whatever reason, Ellison was unable to recreate the work he'd once nearly finished.

By the time of his death in 1994, Ellison had amassed thousands of pages of the manuscript, notes, and various scraps of paper. Though a heavily daunting task, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to put these pieces together and posthumously publish Ellison's much anticipated second novel. The first attempt came in 1999, just five years after Ellison's death, with Juneteenth. Juneteenth encompasses the few hundred pages of Ellison's novel that were most intact. The second attempt, published in 2010, entitled Three Days Before the Shooting..., was intended to be a more complete work, borrowing from Ellison's notes, trying to build the novel that he'd intended to create.

As with any posthumous work, it's difficult to have an opinion about Juneteenth. In part, I did not want to read it as I hated to tarnish my strong feelings for Ellison's literary reputation. Yet, I was curious. Curious enough that I promised myself I would read both adaptations before the year's end.

Juneteenth is a meandering mess of stream of conciousness. While Ellison certainly dabbled with the form in Invisible Man, the influence of Faulkner and company saturate the pages of Juneteenth. It's difficult to follow. And yet, there's the possibility of so much brilliance beneath the confusing string of words. With a complete novel as Ellison intended, or tougher editing, perhaps the poetry and inventiveness of thought would've been abundantly clear. Unfortunately, as presented here, it's not. There are so many layers in this selection, and without the full picture, these layers add to the mess. It's never quite clear where Ellison intended to go with his creature and how it might have been orchestrated.

It's unfortunate that fire destroyed Ellison's novel, yet one has to wonder if Ellison wasn't privately struggling before the disastrous event. Surely, one can imagine a world where fire did not destroy the original manuscript, but the author still combated with self in his attempt to create perfection. Invisible Man may have been impossible to follow. Though I offer no rating for this posthumous work by an author I greatly admire, let it be known that I struggled greatly with this novel. It is not a pleasant or memorable read. Even so, I still intend to follow through with my promise to read Three Days Before the Shooting.... Given the extra time and resources, it's possible a hint of Ellison's intentions will be evident.
1 abstimmen chrisblocker | Apr 25, 2017 |
Juneteenth is Ralph Ellison's posthumous follow-up to Invisible Man. It's about a senator, Bliss, who is shot on the senate floor, and the African-American man, Hickman, who raised him. It's also about identity and how the way we identify ourselves affects our actions and how we treat others. Despite having been raised by African-Americans, Bliss grows up to become a racist, white senator. Once he decides to be white, this influences the future actions of his life, which leads to the assassination attempt.

The book alternates between first person from Bliss's point of view, to first person from Hickman's point of view, to third person. It also alternates from detailing the present relationship between Bliss and Hickman by his hospital bed to the past as told by Hickman and remembered by Bliss. This enables Ellison to tell the story from all sides and give the reader greater insight as to how the characters developed to become who they were. This aspect of the novel potentially could have made for a frustrating and incomprehensible read, but Ellison does a wonderful job of sequencing and pacing the story so that it is easy for the reader to understand the story as Ellison intended it.

The book also has resonance in the twenty-first century despite the fact that Ellison began writing it in the late 1950s. We can all relate to how our sense of identity and our circumstance can influence who we are and who we could become. Sure, the twenty-first century American reader may take civil rights for granted nearly fifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964; however, this doesn't make the overarching themes of identity and circumstance any less relevant. This is still and enjoyable and enlightening read regardless of the many changes since it was written. ( )
5 abstimmen fuzzy_patters | Mar 12, 2013 |
See What I Have Been Reading, July 2010 at From Word to Word
  jeremylukehill | Aug 3, 2010 |
Still a book that hasn't found me, nor have I found it. It's not that I don't enjoy and respect RE's writing or legacy, I just can't connect YET with this book. It's time will come and I will devour it...to be sure.
  jamclash | Jun 12, 2010 |
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» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (5 möglich)

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Ralph EllisonHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Callahan, John F.HerausgeberCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Morton, JoeErzählerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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The story of a black man who passes for white and becomes a race-baiting U.S. senator. When he is shot on the Senate floor, the first visitor in hospital is a black musician-turned-preacher who raised him. As the two men talk, their respective stories come out. An unfinished novel by the author of Invisible Man.

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