Posted in Know Your History

Know Your History – 16th September – James Alan McPherson born

know your history - writingOn this day… 16th September, 1934 – James Alan McPherson born

James Alan McPherson (born September 16, 1943) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American short story writer and essayist. He has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. McPherson is a member of the permanent faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Advice On Writing

 What makes for a compelling history volume?

  • First and foremost, it has to be readable. If the writing is awkward, jargon ridden, narrow, if the prose is dull or dead, then people aren’t going to read it.
  • Second, it has to be accurate. It has to be based on thorough research and on an honest effort to present the story as objectively as possible. Nobody can be 100 percent objective, but it has to be fair-minded.
  • Third, I think it does have to be a story. It has to have dramatic tension. It can’t merely be about large economic or social or cultural forces without real people in there with whom the reader can identify. These are some of the important things that will engage the reader and keep him from saying, ‘This is dull, this is uninteresting. I’m not going to waste my time on this book.’

James Alan McPherson - Love

Did You Know?..

McPherson is heavily influenced by Ralph Ellison and actually co-wrote with him on “Indivisible Man”.

McPherson believes “that the United States is complex enough to induce that sort of despair that begets heroic hope. I believe that if one can experience its diversity, touch a variety of its people, laugh at its craziness, distill wisdom from its tragedies, and attempt to synthesize all this inside oneself without going crazy, one will have earned the right to call oneself citizen of the United States.”

Like Ellison, McPherson is a moral historian. Recognizing the American territory as an ideal always pursued, always there but never reached, he holds his fiction to a high standard by virtue of his identity as a black American writer: “Those of us who are black and who have to defend our humanity should be obliged to continue defending it, on higher and higher levels—not of power, which is a kind of tragic trap, but on higher levels of consciousness.”

Posted in Know Your History

Know Your History – 1st March – Ralph Ellison

know your history - writing

On this day…

March 1st, 1914 – Ralph Ellison born.

Ralph Waldo Ellison (March 1, 1914 – April 16, 1994) was an American novelist, literary critic, scholar and writer. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Ralph EllisonEllison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, published by Random House in 1952. It addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including Black Nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity. For most this is a book assigned in English class that people roll their eyes at having to read, but the storyline is so strong and compelling that readers cannot help be pulled into it. I remember reading somewhere that Ellison had said the book was not just about a Black American but about every person’s “invisibility” in a world that tells us how to think of each other and I think that is one of the things that makes it compelling for everyone feels like that at one time or another.

Invisible Man won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Invisible Man nineteenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

The Invisible Man has been banned from schools several times over its lifetime in publication, including as recently as 2013 as reported in this huffington post article.

Sources – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Ellison, http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7508.Ralph_Ellison  & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Man