talks about Ralph Ellison's just published Three Days Before the Shooting: The Unfinished Second Novel
(edited by Callahan and Bradley), a compilation of Ellison's efforts toward his never-finished second novel, published in part as Juneteenth
, also compiled by Calahan. Crouch considers why Ellison was unable to write another novel. In doing so, he covers much ground, most of it good and true. Some of his formulations are very good. Take these two paragraphs:
"That sense of the importance of improvisation beyond measure was written into
the founding documents and appeared over and over in the national life and the
national response to need or threat. If the chaos is sufficiently epic, so must
the improvisations be if anything close to an actual "solution" is to be
achieved. That is the fundamental tension at the center of the national life,
and Ellison's fundamental sense of American life.
Ellison's basic idea was that human frailty determined what happened far more
often than human idealism, but that idealism continued to live because--whenever
it actually came through!--the results were so monumental that a naive optimism
grew. The speed with which clarity is obscured or misinterpreted is Ralph
Ellison's favorite blues because it is so old that it remains forever new."
I would have said it a little differently, maybe something to do with how "precious" and "sacred" (also, "the original script" and "ground of assumptions upon which our social values rest") the Declaration and the Constitution are in Ellison's thinking (maybe even more on "the moral imperatives in American life" that are implicit in them). Indeed, Ellison calls the Constitution a "mysterious binding force" and maybe Crouch should say more on that and on what that has to do with "culture" (not race) and "individuality" and with "a tragicomic attitude toward the universe" that seems both a necessity and a good and what that has to do with improvisation. Still not bad, and of course Three Days Before the Shooting
will have to be read.