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Book: Invisible Man

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Some quotes in the extended (not as many as I should have). I turned up a Salon article on "Invisible Man" at 50, which some may find as an interesting companion to the book.

Connections

Having just finished Midnight's Children, White Teeth, and Invisible Man, it's only natural I guess that my brain who try to connect the three together. The connections between White Teeth and *Midnight's Children" are the most obvious, given that Zadie Smith does not try to hide the influence of Salman Rushdie on her work.

There were passages that Smith had written about Millat from White Teeth that immediatelly reminded me of Ellison's descriptions of Rinehart (and to a lesser extent, the ever-shifting Saleem in Midnight's Children), though Millat tries to encompass all of his identities at once, and together these identities represents a crisis of identity, versus Rinehart, for whom identity is like a hat, each representing a new possibility that can be worn. Zadie Smith sees the shifting of identity as a sign of illness (missing twin, loss of culture, invisibility to father Samad) causing "an ever-present anger and hurt."

Invisible Man, p. 498

Can it be, I thought, can it actually be? And I knew that it was. I had heard of it before but I'd never come so close. Still, could he be all of them: Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend? Could he himself be both rind and heart? What is real anyway? But how could I doubt it? He was a broad man, a man of parts who got around. Rinehart the rounder. It was true as I was true. His world was possibility and he knew it. He was years ahead of me and I was a fool. I must have been crazy and blind. The world in which we lived was without boundaries.

White Teeth, p. 225

And that's how it was for Millat. He was so big in Cricklewood, in Willesden, n West Hampsteada, the summer of 1990, that nothing he did later in his life could top it. From his first Raggastani crowd, he had expanded and developed tribes throughout the schoool, throughout North London. He was simply too big to remain the object of Irie's affection, leader of the Raggastanis, or the son of Samad and Alsana Iqbal. He had to please all of the people all of the time. To the Cockney wideboys in the white jeans and the coolored shirts he was the joker, the risktaker, respected lady-killer. To the black kids he was fellow weed-smoker and valued customer. To the Asian kids, hero and spokesman. Social chameleon. And underneath it all, there remained an ever-present anger and hurt, the feeling of belonging nowhere that comes to people who belong everywhere.

I also found contrast between Invisible Man and Midnight's Children: the former which uses an unnamed protagonist who stumbles into new identities throughout, versus the many-named Saleem of Midnight's Children, who achieves both godly and base distinction through his naming.

Quotes

p. 14

Irresponsibility is part of my invisibility; any way you face it, it is a denial. But to whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me? Responsibility rests upon recognition, and recognition is a form of agreement.

p. 354

Stephen's problem, like ours, was not actually one of creating the uncreated conscience of his race, but of creating the uncreated features of his face. Our task is that of making ourselves individuals. The conscience of a race is the gift of its individuals who see, evaluate, record... We create the race by creating ourselves and then to our great astonishment we will have created something far more important: We will have created a culture. Why waste time creating a conscience for something that doesn't exist? For, you see, blood and skin do not think!"

p. 454

"What are you waiting for me to tell you?" I shouted suddenly my voice strangely crisp on the windless air. "What good will it do? What if I say that this isn't a funeral, that it's a holiday celebration, that if you stick around the band will end up playing 'Damit-the-Hell the Fun's All Over'? Or do you expect to see some magic, the dead rise up and walk again? Go home, he's as dead as he'll ever die. That's the end in the beginning and there's no encore. There'll be no miracles and there's no one here to preach a sermon. Go home, forget him. He's inside this box, newly dead. Go home and don't think about him. He's dead and you've got all you can do to think about you." I paused. They were whispering and looking upward.

He was attacking the crowd for listening to him! His voice rang with sorrow, remorse, and disgust.

"His name was Clifton and his face was black and his hair was thick with tight-rolled curls-or call them naps of kinks. He's dead, uninterested, and, except to a few young girls, it doesn't matter."

He was telling the crowd what they already knew. The crowd had stopped listening to what he was saying and were waiting for a few choice words like "resist" or "fight" or "power" to flow from his lips. They were waiting to be organized.

p. 498 (contrast with White Teeth p. 225)

Can it be, I thought, can it actually be? And I knew that it was. I had heard of it before but I'd never come so close. Still, could he be all of them: Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend? Could he himself be both rind and heart? What is real anyway? But how could I doubt it? He was a broad man, a man of parts who got around. Rinehart the rounder. It was true as I was true. His world was possibility and he knew it. He was years ahead of me and I was a fool. I must have been crazy and blind. The world in which we lived was without boundaries.

White Teeth, p. 225

And that's how it was for Millat. He was so big in Cricklewood, in Willesden, n West Hampsteada, the summer of 1990, that nothing he did later in his life could top it. From his first Raggastani crowd, he had expanded and developed tribes throughout the school, throughout North London. He was simply too big to remain the object of Irie's affection, leader of the Raggastanis, or the son of Samad and Alsana Iqbal. He had to please all of the people all of the time. To the Cockney wideboys in the white jeans and the colored shirts he was the joker, the risktaker, respected lady-killer. To the black kids he was fellow weed-smoker and valued customer. To the Asian kids, hero and spokesman. Social chameleon. And underneath it all, there remained an ever-present anger and hurt, the feeling of belonging nowhere that comes to people who belong everywhere.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on February 13, 2005 5:30 PM.

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