Black Friday in the Dark with Sambo

Throughout this past year, I have read Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles comics series, contained in the +1,500 page Vertigo omnibus; and the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  Putting aside the vain attempt to understand either one of these narratives, a reader can discover something new and meaningful by considering the mix of time, visuals, and audio connecting all of these profound ideas.  A book from 1952 has much to say about today; and as a literary accomplishment it rivals the best of magical realism.

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Dog Eat Dog

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (Page 238)

“Something had been disconnected. For though I had seldom used my capacities for anger and indignation, I had no doubt that I possessed them; and, like a man who knows that he must fight, whether angry or not, when called a son of a bitch, I tried to imagine myself angry—only to discover a deeper sense of remoteness. I was beyond anger. I was only bewildered. And those above seemed to sense it. There was no avoiding the shock and I rolled with the agitated tide, out into the blackness.”

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Display of Unity

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Community Chest in a Heartbeat

BookTalk 4.2 – Apocalipstick

Invisible Man – Chapter 2-6
The Invisibles – Issues #9-16

Times have changed.  Invisible Man was written back in the 1950s and The Invisibles back in the late 1990s, early 2000s; and both stories could have been very different with the technology of today—namely, ubiquitous connectivity, through smart devices and social networks.  If the protagonist in Invisible Man had a cellphone, then he could have avoided or at least alleviated some of the trouble had at college.  If The Invisibles is about the unseen characters in society throughout time, times have changed in that even these individuals have a forum and a community online now.  A globalized panopticon—usually portrayed as dystopian in Literature—has been inverted by the users to unleash powerful computations.

Supercomputers are the most powerful minds.  Humans can structure minds and create networked minds as superstructures, all similarly organized down to the individual cellular structures of the brain.  Program focus and content and resulting actions are dependent variables, still the processing speed, volume, and power (especially in amplitude) offered by supercomputers make them a priority concern.

Community organizers should fortify the superstructures that support a fond supercomputer as soon as possible.  Youth conservation contains an inherent nostalgia that has qualitative value, whether formative or instructive.  Broad scientific studies would include longitudinal structures and diverse sample sets.

Invisible Man – Chapter four (page 99)

Here within this quiet greenness I possessed the only identity I had ever known, and I was losing it.  In this brief moment of passage I became aware of the connection between these lawns and buildings and my hopes and dreams.  I wanted to stop the car and talk with Mr. Norton, to beg his pardon for what he had seen; to plead and show him tears, unashamed tears like those of a child before his parent; to denounce all we’d seen and heard; to assure him that far from being like any of the  people we had seen, I hated them, that I believed in the principles of the Founder with all my heart and soul, and that I believed in his own goodness and kindness in extending the hand of his benevolence to helping us poor, ignorant people out of the mire and darkness.  I would do his bidding and teach others to rise up as he wished them to, teach them to be thrifty, decent, upright citizens, contributing to the welfare of all, shunning all but the straight and narrow path that he and the Founder had stretched before us.  If only he were not angry with me!  If only he would give me another chance!

Young American Men Are Choosing Video Games Over Work in Staggering Numbers https://t.co/pvsOSJTCuh

— F. B. Perdomo (@BeardofSteel) July 17, 2017

Dr. Bledsoe, “Old Bucket-head” (page 101)

He had been kind to me from the first…but more than that, he was the example of everything I hoped to be:  Influential with wealthy men all over the country; consulted in matters concerning the race; a leader of his people; the possessor of not one, but two Cadillacs, a good salary and a soft, good-looking and creamy-complexioned wife.  What was more, while black and bald and everything white folks poked fun at, he had achieved power and authority; had, while black and wrinkle-headed, made himself of more importance in the world than most Southern white men.  They could laugh at him but they couldn’t ignore him…”

PTSD among the post WWII veterans returning home was devastating and poorly acknowledged, and Ellison captures a few perspectives of the black experience on a level of literary prowess akin to Heller’s Catch-22.  The narrator or protagonist progressing the story overall, moves from seeking the right path, to repenting and asking for forgiveness and ultimately accepting a penance, through the course of chapter 2-6.  A spiritual experience that ends with a very real existential rationalization delivered by Dr. Bledsoe in chapter six:

“I know about it.  But you’ll get over it; it’s foolish and expensive and a lot of dead weight.  You let the white folks worry about pride and dignity—you learn where you are and get yourself power, influence, contacts with powerful and influential people—then stay in the dark and use it!”

“Her memories have condensed and crystallized into bric-a-brac around her.  Sometimes it seems to her that they have set her in them, like a fly in amber.”  The Invisibles Omnibus (365)

Say You Want a Revolution

BookTalk 4.1 – Say You Want a Revolution

Invisible Man – Prologue and Chapter 1
The Invisibles – Issues #1-8

Music can connect, engage, and enrich. A fuller picture is painted. Tapping into an untold story, revealing a long forgotten history. Music can be transformative. A record when records don’t exist, for the story has been told via word of mouth and forgotten between the ears.

“…I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment. The battle royal came first.” Nature exudes a brutal violence that people choose to indulge, falling victim to an intoxicating illness. Rage can be transformative. Graphic violence can spread like a viral emotion, whether cathartic or oppressive.

In the beginning of The Invisibles, the first story is titled “Dead Beatle$” and the mixed media allusions pour out from the start. Grant Morrison captures the angst of youthful rebellion and dials in on counterculture, narrowing in on John Lennon and the power of psychedelic time travel.

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“Down and Out” (in Heaven and Hell) happens to be the title for the subsequent three episodes in The Invisibles, and it also refers to George Orwell’s social experiment of living in poverty. The homeless and the utterly destitute to the hoboes and drifters choosing to live like modern nomadic transients, take the narrative focus and frame the streets with compassion and awe.

Who is invisible? Through the first 8 issues of The Invisibles a collection of characters grow an answer list: the Invisibles as young adulthood; ghosts; covert spies and secret agents; conspirators; the poor; rats and pigeons; the elderly and ill; transgender; the criminal; storytellers, artists, and mass media; wards of the insane asylum; heroes and legends; African Americans; free thinkers.

 

The narrator concludes that “Even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play.” This is an important tenet of Ellison’s philosophy, for he believed that art should serve democracy. In what way is Invisible Man a novel that deals specifically with the problems and challenges of democracy?