Format: Trade Paperback
Dimensions: 704 pages, 3.15 × 2.05 × 0.55 in
Published: January 8, 2008
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0375707980
ISBN - 13: 9780375707988
About the Book
On the strength of just one novel, as well as a series of lasting essays in cultural criticism, Ellison stands as one of the major literary figures of the last century. Rampersad tells the story of Ellison's long apprenticeship as a musician and writer and his long life, full of honors and frustrations.
Read from the Book
Chapter One In the Territory: 1913–1931 There is no ancestor so powerful as one’s earlier selves. —Lewis Mumford (1929) Decades after the blazing hot afternoon in June 1933 when Ralph Ellison, in his first and last outing as a hobo, climbed fearfully and yet eagerly aboard a smoky freight train leaving Oklahoma City on a dangerous journey that he hoped would take him to college in Tuskegee, Alabama, his memories of growing up in Oklahoma continued both to haunt and to inspire him. For a long time he had suppressed those memories; then the time came when he began to crave them. The turning point had been his triumph in 1952 with his novel Invisible Man. That success had led to a cascading flow of honors such as no other African-American writer had ever enjoyed. In 1953, he won the National Book Award, besting The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, one of his idols. Later, the American Academy of Arts and Letters elected him a member, one of the fifty distinguished American men and women who formed its inner core. At the White House, first Lyndon B. Johnson and then Ronald Reagan awarded him presidential medals. At the behest of the novelist and critic André Malraux, another of his idols, France made him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. The most venerable social club in America connected to the arts, the Century, in New York, elected him as its first black member. Harvard University, awarding him an honorary degree, offered him a profe
From the Publisher
Ralph Ellison is justly celebrated for his epochal novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953 and has become a classic of American literature. But Ellison’s strange inability to finish a second novel, despite his dogged efforts and soaring prestige, made him a supremely enigmatic figure. Arnold Rampersad skillfully tells the story of a writer whose thunderous novel and astute, courageous essays on race, literature, and culture assure him of a permanent place in our literary heritage.
Starting with Ellison’s hardscrabble childhood in Oklahoma and his ordeal as a student in Alabama, Rampersad documents his improbable, painstaking rise in New York to a commanding place on the literary scene. With scorching honesty but also fair and compassionate, Rampersad lays bare his subject’s troubled psychology and its impact on his art and on the people about him.This book is both the definitive biography of Ellison and a stellar model of literary biography.
About the Author
Arnold Rampersad is Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities at Stanford University, where he is also Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and a member of the English department. He is a recipient of fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has written for The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post.
“Startling, illuminating. . . . [Rampersad] treats Ellison as a man, not as a deity.”
—The New Yorker
“Astute . . . revelatory. . . . Consistently intriguing.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Illuminating and richly reported. . . . Rampersad is uniquely qualified to examine the Ellison case.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Rampersad is as meticulous as he is graceful.”