I’m trying to look at books the way a librarian might, in order to help get me better at thinking from a reader’s point of view. Here are the other posts in the series.
I’m just going to say it. Sometimes works of pure genius don’t get noticed by white people, because they’re written by and about people of color, and white people are trained to go, “Fiction by people of color isn’t meant for me.”
It’s a subconscious thing. Which means you can go, “I don’t take a writer’s race into consideration,” and still end up reading no or very little fiction written by people of color.
Which is a shame.
Invisible Man is a book set in the 1940s, about a young black man who learns to embrace the Catch-22 setup of his existence. It’s a funny book, with the main character being thrown from one ridiculous Kafkaesque situation to another, until finally he comes to realize that his trials have given him a unique superpower: to be unseen by the people around him in an almost literal fashion.
The book isn’t just darkly funny, but is written with the ear of a jazz musician:
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.
I recommend it for people who are fans of Beat writers like Kerouac, Ginsberg, or Ferlinghetti. Poetry fans looking for fiction may enjoy the layers of subtle language. And for those who love the dark humor of Kafka, Catch-22, or The Manchurian Candidate may find this book just as biting and cynical. Older, more mature teens may enjoy this as well.
But to let the book speak for itself:
Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.
A wonderful book.
Thoughtful book recommendations – prose off the beaten path – one terrible pun per month – no questions asked. Wonderland Press Newsletter.