Saturday, March 12, 2022

Louis Armstrong and Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man"

In the Prologue to Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" (1952), the unnamed narrator, the titular "invisible man", ponders his appreciation of Louis Armstrong: "Perhaps I like Louis Armstrong because he's made poetry out of being invisible. I think it must be because he's unaware that he is invisible. And my own grasp of invisibility aids me to understand his music." While the black "invisible man" might be assumed to like the black musician because they are both black and "invisible", the narrator instead asserts his difference from Armstrong as the grounds for his appreciation: Armstrong is "unaware", but he "grasps" not only their mutual "invisibility" but also the "poetry" of Armstrong's music. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 March 2022)

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