Arnold Rampersad: Ralph Ellison A Biography



Arnold Rampersad is one of the finest biographers around and with this latest portrait he joins the ranks of Leon Edel Richard Ellmann and RWB Lewis He is such a nuanced elegant and detailed writer but the tidbits and facts and anecdotes and dates never feel like simply an accretion of information you never get the sense this is a biographer that fell in love with research and didn t know when to stop Like an intricate tapestry or a complex jazz riff each detail and story plays off reinforces animates reveals anew and reorders some aspect of Ellison s personality as it converges into a harmonious whole a stunning portrait of a man that lived for his art and paid for it Arnold Rampersad has an impressive reputation for creating great works of biographies He proved his talent with this intriguing and immensely detailed work capturing the true essence and character of a great American writer I read this biography in preparation for re reading Invisible Man for book club I m glad I read it because it gave me a new and deeper knowledge of Ralph Ellison the man and the artist This was one of the best biographies by Rampersad that I ve read This is not a book to read if you re not ready to commit to entering life with Ralph EllisonIt was interesting to read learn so much of Ellison as the man who gave life to the Invisible Man It was amazing to learn that he never received a diploma from niversity at Tuskegeea fact that bothered Ralph for the rest of his life because his contemporaries male female had college diplomas The Programming in Objective C uestion posed by many of his contemporaries would he have ever completed his second novel No definitive answer has ever been made into the public arenaAs described by Rampersad Ellison had difficulty forming friendships due to his inability to befriend someone warts and all His relations with other Black writers were constantly changing and those with younger Black writers with few exceptions were nearly nonexistent The cause of that was he had a difficult time accepting the next generation s style and subject matter All of his idols in the literary field were white which was an important factor in not being able to develop sustainable relations with the younger generation of Black writers THE ENIGMATIC GENIUS OF RALPH ELLISONInvisible Man Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory all books by thatintessential twentieth century literary artist Ralph Waldo Ellison remain towering masterworks of American literature for their penetrating explorations of racial identity cultural complexity and historical conseuences in the United States With Senator Barack Obama s historic bid for the White House evolving daily into the possibility of an historic win Ellison s brilliantly charged writings which first catapulted him to fame in the 1950s are perhaps relevant now than ever before making Arnold Rampersad s detailed biography of the great writer one of the best reads around during these very exciting times Biographies of high achieving African Americans have too often in the past fallen into one of two categories those that romanticized their subjects as cultural heroes and those that condemned them as embarrassing villains Fortunately in Rampersad we have a biographer who assigned himself the demanding task of providing as full and honest a portrait of his subject as he could He does so with balanced assessments of both the publicly applauded Ellison who became a permanent fixture in world literature the moment he won the National Book Award for Invisible Man in 1953 and detailed sketches of the private Ellison who bemoaned his lack of children and wrestled for almost half a century with his inability to follow his initial literary victory with a second completed novel As one might expect from any capable literary biographer Arnold Rampersad provides readers with a highly engaging dramatic account of Ellison s beginnings in Oklahoma City and his subseuent rise from demoralizing poverty and tragedy to international literary stardom Much of the. The definitive biography of one of the most important American writers and cultural intellectuals of the twentieth century Ralph Ellison author of the masterpiece Invisible Man In 1953 Ellison's explosive story of an innocent young black man's often surreal search for truth and his identity won him the National Book Award for fiction and catapulted him to national prominence Ellison went on to earn many other honors including two presidential medals and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters but his failure to publish a second novel despite years of striving haunted him for the rest of his life Now as the first scholar given complete access to Ellison's papers Arn.

Story of Ellison s youth and his struggles to give birth to his identity as a writer is already well known both from Ellison s essays and Lawrence Jackson s biography of the author Ralph Ellison Emergence of Genius Even so Rampersad s own elouent placement of Ellison within the greater contexts of American social history and within such specific cultural movements as the Harlem Renaissance shine an even revealing light on the author Moreover high school and college students grappling with assignments to write papers on Invisible Man can duly thank Rampersad for his lucid dissection of the surrealistic historical and political elements that make the novel the Beyond Band of Brothers uniuely brilliant American coming of age tale that it is Because Invisible Man is a celebrated novel that has soldntold millions of copies in different languages around the world for than half a century the stories of cultural politics and extramarital dalliances surrounding its celebrity author may not stun readers too much What might though while reading along is the realization of just how much cultural and political influence Ellison came to wield based on the strength of that one mighty novel and a couple of volumes of essays With his role as a founding participant in such organizations as the Commission on Educational Television which in time would lead to the development of public broadcast stations and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Ellison occupied a position in which he could make or break the careers of various writers with his registered approval or disapproval of them Oddly enough despite the fact that he benefited greatly from the influence of such Harlem Renaissance giants as Richard Wright and Langston Hughes he was not as inclined as they to champion younger The Water Of Life upcoming black authors based on notions of racial solidarity or mentorship Nevertheless Presidents Lyndon B Johnson and Ronald Reagan both of whom awarded him presidential medals so respected Ellison s intellectual prominence that they invited him on a variety of occasions for both social and official purposes to the White House Such was his stature that he attended when he felt it important to do so but not when he believed other issues such as a gathering of literary peers as opposed to one of political statesmen mattered Of all the mysteries that may be attributed to the life of Ralph Ellison possibly none are so beguiling as that of his second novel As early as 1953 the public began to speculate on andery Ellison about his follow The Year of Living Biblically up novel to Invisible Man and that speculation continued rightp ntil his death on April 16 1994 First haunted by the pressure of completing a novel as successful as his first had been Ellison s 365 page work in progress was destroyed by a fire in 1967 Although he managed eventually to re write pages than he actually lost the remaining four decades of Ellison s life seemed almost dominated by one of the most enduring and over publicized writing blocks in history Yet as Rampersad illustrates his prominence did not diminish but continued to increase with teaching positions speaking engagements appointments to influential boards and the ever growing canonization of his one indisputable fiction masterpiece Invisible Man A version of his second novel Juneteenth edited by his friend John F Callahan and reportedly culled from than 2000 pages would not be published ntil 1999The serious literary author in 2008 still obtains some degree of notable status when he or she wins a significant award but their influence is generally restricted to academic environments Internet literary communities or various geographical regions It would be virtually impossible for a modern author to achieve the level of prestige and actual power Ellison commanded based on his intellectual gifts and pronouncements alone And yet such an observation makes one pay serious attention to the role bestselling books play in the careers of political leaders like Hillary Clinton and Barack ObamaFor that reason Ellison s lif. Old Rampersad has written not only a reliable account of the main events of Ellison's life but also a complex authoritative portrait of an nusual artist and human being Born poor and soon fatherless in 1913 Ralph struggled both to belong to and to escape from the world of his childhood We learn here about his sometimes happy sometimes harrowing years growing p in Oklahoma City and attending Tuskegee Institute in Alabama Arriving in New York in 1936 he became a political radical before finally embracing the cosmopolitan intellectualism that would characterize his dazzling cultural essays his elouent interviews and his historic novel The second half of his long life brought bot.

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E is indeed one worth celebrating for many decades to come and Rampersad s biography of that life is a book that has earned its rightful place among the best and most important in the genre By Author Poet Aberjhani The publication of INVISIBLE MAN bisects this biography Those pages that recount Ellison s life before 1952 are fascinating the book is a real page turner in the early chapters After recounting the publication of Ellison s masterpiece however the narrative grows somewhat stale I do not attribute this flatness to any failing on Rampersad s part his two volume biography of Langston Hughes is excellent Rather Ellison s social aspirations his endless awards his often token participation on elite committees and boards inc Colonial Williamsburg are among the things that consumed him after INVISIBLE MAN was released Read I knew that Ralph Ellison author of the masterpiece Invisible Man would be a fascinating person to read about I read this book right after finally reading Invisible Man What really surprised me is how well this book is written Arnold Rampersad sure can write a biography I am so For the Love of All Thats Holy, Dont Buy a Boat When Venus is in Retrograde used to writers getting some type of man crush on a public figure drawing a bead on their subject s life and worshiping their subjectI like a writer who can discover the subject and portray him in 3 D the good and the bad Ellison was not a simple man he wasite complex He could be generous open and helpful or at other times he could be tight cold and removed Many people came to him for help and guidance some fared well and he would take them Scary Stories 3 under his wing others he would shut the door onHow Ellison became the man that he did in the face of the odds and from his impoverished background is indeed impressive He had to work very hard notit and he himself found some very helpful sponsors He did not become embittered and saw the rise of the negro as being a path of working into the mainstream of American society and not forming a separate Black societyI can see where in the 1960 s and 1970 s the State Department loved sing him to promote US interests and image overseas I like to be in the habit of reading the best biography that I can find on fascinating people Einstein Steve Jobs Ulysses S Grant Roberto Clemente etc My reading eue is too long and my time too short to have to read 3 or 4 books on a person to get the real measure of themHere in this book I believe that I found the best telling of the story of the life of Ralph Ellison Arnold Rampersad is a biographer that I place on the same level as David McCullough and Edward Jean Smith This is perhaps the best biography that I have read in 2018 Confronted with something as messy and complicated as a human life a biographer can too easily fall into the trap of simplification seizing on one prominent aspect of the subject s character and history the way a caricaturist turns a potato nose or jug ears into the dominant feature in a cartoon On the other hand if the life surveyed is long enough and complex enough the biographer may be tempted just to report the incidents and events and let the reader do the hard work of shaping them into a coherent image What makes Stanford professor Arnold Rampersad s biography of Ralph Ellison so immensely engaging so satisfying is that he steers deftly betw Perhaps the best biography I ve read since Peter Manso s book on Brando over a thousand pages The author Arnold Rapmersad does not let Ellison off the hook by just calling him a genius He dug into the gliness of Ellison as well his selfishness and capacity to be pompous amongst other things It almost made me hate Ellisonbut it brought me back to life by the end of the book I m not sure why just yet but he reminds me of Fitzgerald Obviously both shared the common trait of geniusbut I think there s to it than that Cheever who loved Bellow as Bellow loved Cheever perhaps noted the irony of a black man Ellison complaining to a WASP that their friend a Jew did not appreciate purity of blood in a dog Ellison s Tuckatarby. H widespread critical acclaim and bitter disputes with many opponents including black cultural nationalists outraged by what they saw as his elitism and misguided pride in his American citizenship This biography describes a man of magnetic personality who counted Saul Bellow Langston Hughes Robert Penn Warren Richard Wright Richard Wilbur Albert Murray and John Cheever among his closest friends; a man both admired and reviled whose life and art were shaped mainly by his nyielding desire to produce magnificent art and by his resilient faith in the moral and cultural strength of America A magisterial biography of Ralph Waldo Ellison a revelation of the man the writer and his tim.

Arnold Rampersad born 13 November 1941 is a biographer literary critic and academic who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and moved to the US in 1965 The first volume 1986 of his Life of Langston Hughes was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and his Ralph Ellison A Biography was a finalist for the 2007 National Book AwardRampersad is currently Professor of English and the Sara Hart Kimball