The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison

Random. Dec. 2019. 1,056p. ed. by ed. by John F. Callahan & Marc C. Conner. index. ISBN 9780812998528. $50; ebk. ISBN 9780812998535. LIT
Ellison, best known as the author of the novel Invisible Man (1952), is a master of the dying form of epistolary writing, as amply illustrated in this generous selection of letters from 1933 to 1993, edited by Ellison’s literary executor Callahan (Odell Professor of Humanities, Lewis and Clark Univ.) and Connor (The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison). Whether writing to his peers such as Richard Wright, Saul Bellow, Albert Murray, or Stanley Edgar Hyman, or addressing his mother; his wife, actress Rose Poindexter; or lifelong friends from Oklahoma City, Ellison never fails to be entertaining or illuminating. One of the most insightful entries, to his former teacher at Tuskegee University, Morteza Sprague, dated May 19, 1954, speaks poignantly on the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision mandating the end of school segregation. Numerous correspondence revolves around Invisible Man, as well as the fitful composition of Ellison’s unfinished second novel, Juneteenth, which he worked on for nearly 40 years.
VERDICT An invaluable volume for Ellison scholars and recommended for all readers interested in American literature.

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