The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison

By Robert J. Butler | Go to book overview

details of real life in fresh ways. He combined this with a lucid naturalism picked up from Wright which gave him a deepened understanding of how social environment impacts upon the lives of individuals. He then developed an ability to alternate these styles with a finely textured, many-layered symbolism which he learned from Joyce and Malraux. Going one step further, he was able to judiciously blend these styles with comic techniques from American and African American folk tradition, developing a distinctive voice which can only be called "Ellisonian." Flying Home and Other Stories is an important book because it documents more fully than any other primary source this remarkable literary development, in addition to adding six stories of high quality to the Ellison canon.

This book should not be seen as merely filling in lacunae in Ellison's oeuvre in order to bring certain aspects of Ellison studies to a closure. Rather, it should whet our appetite for new work which needs to be done so that we can finally have an adequate view of Ellison's entire career and his achievement as a writer. Not only do the previously unpublished stories need to be critically analyzed and assessed but Ellison's long-awaited second novel should finally be put together and published. Ellison's superb non-fiction prose, which has only been fitfully explored by scholars and critics, deserves much closer scrutiny. And, of course, biographies of Ellison are desperately needed, especially to provide us with a better understanding of his early years in Oklahoma, his formative years as a writer in New York, and his later years after he had achieved fame as a major novelist. Ellison studies, therefore, are about to enter an exciting new phase, thanks in no small measure to the publication of Flying Home and Other Stories.


WORKS CITED

Callahan John F. Flying Home and Other Stories. New York: Random House, 1996. Ellison Ralph. Shadow and Act. New York: Signet Books, 1966.

From African American Review 32 (Spring 1998), 164-167.

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