Short Stories by Ellison Collection Includes Six Recently Discovered Works

By Hayden, Reviewed Chris | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 12, 1997 | Go to article overview

Short Stories by Ellison Collection Includes Six Recently Discovered Works


Hayden, Reviewed Chris, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


FLYING HOME AND OTHER STORIES

By Ralph Ellison

Edited and with an introduction by John F. Callahan 173 pages, Random House, $23 THE GREAT literary reputation of the late Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-1994) rests mostly on one book, his only published novel, "Invisible Man" (1952). It is bolstered by other fine writings; three volumes of essays and literary criticism and some short stories, including two of the most-anthologized works in the genre, "King of the Bingo Game" and "Flying Home." Still, John F. Callahan, who was literary executor of Ellison's estate, says he put off issuing a collection of short fiction because most of that published consisted of excerpts from unpublished novels and parts of and offshoots from "Invisible Man," rather than free-standing short stories. Then, in February of this year, he discovered, in a box under the late author's dining room table, a folder marked, "Early Stories." Those six stories, which were unpublished at the time of Ellison's death, and seven others are collected in "Flying Home and Other Stories." They are presented, not in the order that they were written, but in a sequence, Callahan writes, which "follows the life Ellison knew and imagined." Thus, "Boy on a Train" and the four "Buster and Riley" stories in the book are set in the Oklahoma of Ellison's boyhood; "I Did Not Learn Their Names" on a Santa Fe freight train "highballing" to St. Louis (in the '30s Ellison hoboed from Oklahoma City to Alabama, where he would study music at Tuskegee Institute). Callahan further states that the stories show Ellison's "gradual ascent to maturity . . . when . . . he was about to conceive `Invisible Man.' " Much has been written about Ellison's debt to Ernest Hemingway, whom he first read while a student at Tuskegee. In an interview titled, "A Very Stern Discipline" collected in "Going to the Territory" (1986), he went so far as to state that the characters in Hemingway's early writing held attitudes "which closely approximated certain basic attitudes held by many Negroes. …

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