Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Description in Invisible Man

I have to admit that I am struggling with Invisible Man. I really enjoyed the beginning of this novel: the Battle Royal, the initial chapters where the main character is driving the white donor around, and the subsequent fallout of those events. But once the principle character leaves the college and moves to New York it loses me. I don't know what it is either. This novel has some sections that are nicely written. There isn't anything that truly blows me away, but Ellison has some good descriptive powers. Here is one example:
"It was a beautiful college. The buildings were old and covered with vines and the roads gracefully winding, lined with hedges and wild roses that dazzled the eyes in the summer sun. Honeysuckle and purple wisteria hung heavy from the trees and white magnolias mixed with their scents in the bee-humming air. I've recalled it often, here in my hole: How the grass turned green in the springtime and how the mocking birds fluttered their tails and sang, how the moon shone down on the buildings how the bell in the chapel tower rang out the precious short-lived hours; how the girls in bright summer dresses promenaded the grassy lawn. Many times, here at night, I've closed my eyes and walking along the forbidden road that winds past the girls' dormitories, past the hall with the clock in the tower, its windows warmly aglow, on down past the small white Home Economics practice cottage, whiter still in the moonlight, and on down the road with its sloping and turning, paralleling the black powerhouse with its engines droning earth-shaking rhythms in the dark, its windows red from the glow of the furnace, on to where the road became a bridge over a dry riverbed, tangled with brush and clinging vines: the bridge of rustic logs, made for trysting, but virginal and untested by lovers; on up the road, past the buildings with the southern verandas half-a-city block long, to the sudden forking, barren of buildings, birds, or grass, where the road turned off to the insane asylum."
This is, in essence, just a bunch of lists. The narrator takes us on a journey through the campus, walking us down roads and past buildings. It really works and I felt as if I were able to actually see what Ellison was describing. My absolutely favorite line is: "the bridge of rustic logs, made for trysting, but virginal and untested by lovers." That is an amazing image.

So, I have put Invisible Man aside for now. Maybe I will return to it one day, but I can't spend anymore time reading something that I am struggling with. Time is too short.

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