Juneteenth: A Novel by Ralph Ellison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
How do you judge a book that was unfinished at the time it was taken over by the editor? A book that was 40 years in the making, likely to have been published as three books if the author had finished it before he passed away? Do you judge it as a work in progress, a sketch book piece from the creaters of one of Western Literatures masterpieces? After all, Elisson never handed this book to his publisher and said "It is done". It seems unfair to judge it as a finished work bearing Ellison's name, but on the other hand, he's dead and probably doesn't care. The book IS published, it is promoted as a completed novel by the people who are making money from it (Ellison's estate as well as the publisher), so it should be held up to whatever standards the reader uses to judge other, more traditionally published books. In that case, I say that Juneteenth: A Novel, while no where near the glory of Invisible Man, is not a bad book. As character driven stories go, it's got the makings of something truly fascinating. Sen. Adam Sundraider's orgin story as Bliss, a boy raised to be a white preacher in the southern Black tradition by the charismatic Reverend Hickman, is not only a lesson in a history that could have been, it's good reading. However, as Bliss/Sunraider grows older, his trauma induced memories grow weaker. It's not that he stop remembering, he just doesn't remember things is a form that makes for good reading. Hickman disappears from the narrative for two long to explain why he was so important in the beginning. You can definitely spot that there where two books plotted at the time Ellison died, and Callahan's editing can't fill the holes between them.
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