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Trading Twelves

The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray

By , (Author), John Callahan (Editor)

Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
This absorbing collection of letters spans a decade in the lifelong friendship of two remarkable writers who engaged the subjects of literature, race, and identity with deep clarity and passion.

The correspondence begins in 1950 when Ellison is living in New York City, hard at work on his enduring masterpiece, Invisible Man, and Murray is a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Mirroring a jam session in which two jazz musicians "trade twelves"—each improvising twelve bars of music around the same musical idea-their lively dialog centers upon their respective writing, the jazz they both love so well, on travel, family, the work literary contemporaries (including Richard Wright, James Baldwin, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway) and the challenge of racial inclusiveness that they wish to pose to America through their craft. Infused with warmth, humor, and great erudition, Trading Twelves offers a glimpse into literary history in the making—and into a powerful and enduring friendship.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Show less
This absorbing collection of letters spans a decade in the lifelong friendship of two remarkable writers who engaged the subjects of literature, race, and identity with deep clarity and passion.

The correspondence begins in 1950 when Ellison is living in New York City, hard at work on his enduring masterpiece, Invisible Man, and Murray is a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Mirroring a jam session in which two jazz musicians "trade twelves"—each improvising twelve bars of music around the same musical idea-their lively dialog centers upon their respective writing, the jazz they both love so well, on travel, family, the work literary contemporaries (including Richard Wright, James Baldwin, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway) and the challenge of racial inclusiveness that they wish to pose to America through their craft. Infused with warmth, humor, and great erudition, Trading Twelves offers a glimpse into literary history in the making—and into a powerful and enduring friendship.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Product Details
Paperback (272 pages)
Published: May 15, 2001
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780375708053
Other books byRalph Ellison
  • Invisible Man

    Invisible Man
    Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952.  A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.  The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.  The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.

    Juneteenth

    Juneteenth
    NATIONAL BESTSELLER "[A]n extraordinary book, a work of staggering virtuosity. With its publication, a giant world of literature has just grown twice as tall."--Newsday From Ralph Ellison--author of the classic novel of African-American experience, Invisible Man--the long-awaited second novel. Here is the master of American vernacular--the rhythms of jazz and gospel and ordinary speech--at the height of his powers, telling a powerful, evocative tale of a prodigal of the twentieth century. "Tell me what happened while there's still time," demands the dying Senator Adam Sunraider to the itinerate Negro preacher whom he calls Daddy Hickman. As a young man, Sunraider was Bliss, an orphan taken in by Hickman and raised to be a preacher like himself. Bliss's history encompasses the joys of young southern boyhood; bucolic days as a filmmaker, lovemaking in a field in the Oklahoma sun. And behind it all lies a mystery: how did this chosen child become the man who would deny everything to achieve his goals? Brilliantly crafted, moving, wise, Juneteenth is the work of an American master. From the Trade Paperback edition.

    Shadow and Act

    Shadow and Act
    With the same intellectual incisiveness and supple, stylish prose he brought to his classic novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison examines his antecedents and in so doing illuminates the literature, music, and culture of both black and white America. His range is virtuosic, encompassing Mark Twain and Richard Wright, Mahalia Jackson and Charlie Parker, The Birth of a Nation and the Dante-esque landscape of Harlem—“the scene and symbol of the Negro’s perpetual alienation in the land of his birth.” Throughout, he gives us what amounts to an episodic autobiography that traces his formation as a writer as well as the genesis of Invisible Man. On every page, Ellison reveals his idiosyncratic and often contrarian brilliance, his insistence on refuting both black and white stereotypes of what an African American writer should say or be. The result is a book that continues to instruct, delight, and occasionally outrage readers.

    Going to the Territory

    Going to the Territory
    The work of one of the most formidable figures in American intellectual life." -- Washington Post Book World The seventeen essays collected in this volume prove that Ralph Ellison was not only one of America's most dazzlingly innovative novelists but perhaps also our most perceptive and iconoclastic commentator on matters of literature, culture, and race. In Going to the Territory, Ellison provides us with dramatically fresh readings of William Faulkner and Richard Wright, along with new perspectives on the music of Duke Ellington and the art of Romare Bearden. He analyzes the subversive quality of black laughter, the mythic underpinnings of his masterpiece Invisible Man, and the extent to which America's national identity rests on the contributions of African Americans. Erudite, humane, and resounding with humor and common sense, the result is essential Ellison.

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