Ellison's Invisible Man is our finest, perhaps only really major Negro novel; certainly a literary marker of the last decades. His second book, a collection of essays written over various periods, some when quite young, some as recent as last year, is a rather modest affair. As an essayist Ellison lacks Baldwin's electrical displays, his almost formalized fury; he is sober where Baldwin is dramatic; the prose is more muscular, the insights are intellectual rather than emotional. The pieces do present, however, an autobiographical accounting and the themes, extending from jazz and blues to literature and folklore, are much engagements with a writer's mind as they are facets of a writer's experiences. Here is the confrontation between "outlaw" culture and official culture, between, in fact, Negro America and America as a whole. Especially telling is the inclusion of a Library of Congress address in which Ellison notes his artistic journeyings (the influence of Malraux, the inspiration of Wright, the Marxist phase, his Oklahoma background, etc.); equally noteworthy are a Paris Review interview and two first-rate appraisals of Charlie Parker and Mahalia Jackson. A polemical rebuttal top Irving Howe re social protest and esthetic integrity is as spunky and as topical as anyone could wish.