universal education, and its relativenfreedom of cultural information.”nHere Mr. Ellison is not referring tonhimself, but those sentences mightnreadily be applied to him. As a boy, hencame from a Negro neighborhood innOklahoma to study music at TuskegeenInstitute, and there picked up a copy ofnThe Waste Land—Eliot’s notes theretonled him to other books; and so, bynchance or providence, he became inntime a man of letters. The influence ofnT.S. Eliot may be discerned in himnstill.nAs I wrote of Ellison 17 years ago,n”Mr. Ellison has vision, and he cannwrite, and very early he fought free ofnideology. He does not fall into thendelusion, even in its inverted sense ofn’belligerent negritude,’ that there isnsomething wrong about being colorednor being poor. … He does not meannto whitewash the colored man, or tonconvert all the poor into dully affluentnsuburbanites. He is endowed with thentragic sense of life.”nEllison is thoroughly American,nand content to be. In Going to thenTerritory, as in his earlier volume ofnessays, there occur only glancing referencesnto any British or European authors,nexcept so far as Eliot and HenrynJames may be considered quasi-nBritish. (Eliot, who classified himselfnas an American writer even after henbecame a British subject, remarkednthat the worst form of expatriation fornan American writer was residence innNew York City—as indeed the naivenboy oi Invisible Man discovers.) Norndoes he mention anyone who wrotenbefore the 19th century. He grew famousnby writing about what he knewnbest: the experiences of a wellintentionednyoung Negro seeking tonsurvive in the antagonist world. In partnbecause of editors’ and colleges’ requests,ndoubtless, most of his speechesnand essays have been related to questionsnof the Negro in the UnitednStates.nBut no one ought to fancy that hisntalents are confined to writing aboutnracial problems and Negroes’ successesnand difficulties. Two of the essays innthis volume, “Society, Morality, andnthe Novel” and “The Novel as a Functionnof American Democracy,” scarcelynmention anything about color ornsubculture; and they are able, forthrightnsuccesses in criticism, indepen­ndent and persuasive. In the one hendrubs Lionel Trilling; in the other henaffirms the moral function and duty ofnthe novelist.n”The state of our novel is not sonhealthy at the moment,” Ellison writesnas he concludes “The Novel as anFunction of American Democracy.”n”Instead of aspiring to project a visionnof the complexity, the diversity of thentotal experience, the novelist losesnfaith and falls back upon somethingnwhich is called ‘black comedy,’ whichnis neither black nor comic. It is a cry ofndespair. Talent and technique arenthere; artistic competence is there; butna certain necessary faith in humannpossibility before the next unknown isnnot there. I speak from my own sensenof the dilemma, and my own sense ofnwhat people who work in my form owento those who would read us, and readnus seriously, and who are willing tonpay us the respect of lending theirnimaginations to ours.”nIt will be gathered that Ralph Ellisonnis a writer possessed of moralnimagination who knows, with IrvingnBabbitt and T.S. Eliot, that the end ofngreat literature is ethical. In the literaturenof what Eliot called the diabolicalnimagination, he will not traffic. Americans,nmore than any other people,nneed novels to “produce imaginativenmodels of the total society,” he argues.n”If there had been more novelists withnthe courage of Mark Twain or James ornHemingway, we would not be in thenmoral confusion in which we findnourselves today. If we do not knowngood from bad, cowardice from heroism,nthe marvelous from the mundanenand the banal, then we don’t knownwho we are. It is a terrible thing to sitnin a room with a typewriter andndream, and to tell the truth by tellingneffective lies; but this seems to be whatnmany novelists opt for.”nAmen to that. Once upon a timenMr. Ellison and this reviewer shared antelevision broadcast, arranged by Harvardnpeople, about the state of edueahonnin America; our views were notndissimilar.nMonths later, a Harvard quarterlynjournal prepared to publish our remarks.nThere was sent to me, togethernwith proofs, an editorial note meant tonbe preface to the discussion, beginningnwith these words:n”Ralph Ellison and Russell AmosnKirk, two of America’s leading blacknwriters …”nI sent back a note thanking theneditors for the compliment but confessingnthat I possessed no claim tonsuch a distinction, unless some quantitynof Redskin blood in my wife’s veinsnwould qualify me. What Mr. Ellisonnand I happen to share in the Americannmelting pot (a vessel approved bynRalph Ellison) is not the accident ofncolor, but certain convictions aboutnhumane letters.n’7 would not want to live in a worldnthat did not include This World/’n- Ralph MclnernynAuthoritative contributorsn… intelligent discourse …nwideranging subject mattern… lucid, readable prosen… outspoken and oftenncontroversial… all yoursnin This World: A Journal ofnReligion and Public Life!*n*New from The Rockford Institute.nnnSend for the next issue of This Worldn- today.’nf M; Mail this coupon and your checl< to:nThis World, 934 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61 103n• YES, please open my subscription to This World,nstarting with the next issue. Enclosed is $20 for 4nquarterly issues.n• I would like to read This World before subscribing.nEnclosed is $5.50: rush me your current issue.nCity State ZipnOutside of the SO states and Puerto Rico, add $6 pernI subscription. U.S. funds only TWLInAUGUST W87 / 23n