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Sep 15, Laila rated it really liked it. I loved the friendship between these two! Letter writing is such a lost art form and Ellison and Murray were clearly masters at it. I thought their disdain for jazz greats was amusing and I've got a reading list going based on their recommendations to each other. Some of their conversations were beyond me but this is so worth the read. View 2 comments.
Aug 29, Will rated it liked it Shelves: belles-lettres.
For the most part, this is just two young writers trading book recommendations and Ellison is clearly the bigger reader, though with severe lapses of taste. Most often he praises Malraux! The most he writes on Hemingway is about that writer's famous dialogue on President Lincoln being "a faggot" Ellison's word for General Grant.
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I believe these letters were originally intended for publication, so there is an element of self-conscious grandstanding in many of them. Still fun, though, to see their semi-casual back-and-forth about current writers and musicians. What shocked me is the complete disdain they have for the younger voices in jazz like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Neither of them has anything good to say about these two, while they completely revere Duke Ellington. Two telling excerpts: "I cannot understand for I believe these letters were originally intended for publication, so there is an element of self-conscious grandstanding in many of them.
It's nice and pleasant but other than that all I hear is a bunch of studio musicians playing decadent exercises in orchestration based on Ellington's old pastel period. It is incredible to me that anybody seriously interested in jazz would rave about Miles Ahead and pan or pass up Such Sweet Thunder.
The Jazz Party record has some very fine spots. And I loved the comment on the Anatomy of a Murder soundtrack--totally agree with Murray's judgement on that one. Nov 20, Paul Jellinek rated it it was amazing. Two great American writers share their love for great writing, their love for jazz especially Duke Ellington , their thoughts on race, and a whole lot more in this wonderfully casual, heartfelt set of exchanges from the 's and early 's. I just wish they'd kept it up another couple of decades, but by that time they had moved close enough to one another that they didn't need to write any more.
Jun 12, Izetta Autumn rated it really liked it Shelves: african-american. It was cool to read these letters between friends - to see them share their ideas as artists and their love of music. When they officially met in , in New York, they had a common frame of reference-both loved Malraux, Faulkner, and jazz.
It quickly becomes clear that as jazz and literary critics their sensibilities, if not always their styles, were deeply in sync. Though the tone of their first letters is stiff and referential, a jaunty intellectualism, spiced with slang, quickly takes over.
Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray
The war in Europe was over, and hope and the economy were on the upswing. Highways were built, and people were moving in droves to California-it was easy to leave the past behind. On the surface, the American identity was socially cohesive. Blacks in America got a bite-size piece of the pie. In the Supreme Court ended segregation, and black music and performers were finally given credibility-the Newport Jazz Festival premiered in , and contralto Marian Anderson had her debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera House in Yet desegregation took a terrible toll on the South.
There were showdowns in the streets, and as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum, fears of integration caused panic and backlashes among whites. It is characteristic of these letters that the events of the fifties are presented as one thread in an intricately woven correspondence. Throughout the letters, political events in the South are given weight and urgency. But running through every conversation is hard thinking about books. The point is that good writing has nothing to do with the color of your skin. Yet identity was a core concern for both, and the Civil Rights movement was crucial to understanding and properly representing that identity to the world.
The point of The Invisible Man , for example, was not only that blacks needed to be seen and heard, but that there are good and bad ways of getting that attention. The method embraced by the half-blind, rabble-rousing Brother Jack, whom Ellison cast as a fool, was clearly the bad way.
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