TRADING TWELVES

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF RALPH ELLISON AND ALBERT MURRAY

An open window into a literary friendship and beyond.

The late novelist Ralph Ellison and novelist and cultural critic Albert Murray were undergraduate acquaintances at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama before later becoming friends in New York in the 1940s. But it was mostly in the 1950s (when for two years Ellison was at the American Academy in Rome and Murray was a US Air Force officer stationed in Morocco) that the bulk of these delightfully engaging exchanges were written. This is Ellison and Murray at their relaxed best, shooting the breeze about photography, music, or cooking; riffing on Faulkner, Malraux, Robert Penn Warren, or T.S. Eliot; propounding their own literary and cultural theories; or critiquing the Eisenhower administration’s halfhearted efforts at school integration. Ellison, as it turns out, was as fussy about language as he was particular about the ingredients he used for his beloved pigs’ feet. They both were astute observers of the Jazz scene and seemed to know every bit of minutiae involving the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands. (It is from jazz, in fact, that the title—a reference to the 12 bars of music that are “traded” back and forth during a riff—is derived.) Murray, two years Ellison’s junior, published his first novel (Train Whistle Guitar) some 20 years after Invisible Man. In that respect, he often comes across as the student to Ellison’s teacher. But there seemed to be no competition between them. Ellison disclosed to Murray as early as the 1950s that he was at work on a second novel that was never completed before Ellison died in 1994. John Callahan, Ellison’s literary executor, was able eventually to cobble together notes from this work-in-progress and finally to publish it last year as Juneteenth. Callahan also helped Murray select and edit his correspondence with Ellison.

A small treasure.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50367-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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