Vanessa V. Friedman
December 13, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Flying Home and Other Stories

Current Status
In Season
Ralph Ellison
Random House
Short Stories, Fiction

We gave it an A

When Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man) died two years ago, one of his literary dreams was still unfulfilled: he had never published a collection of his short stories. Finally, if posthumously, that oversight has been corrected, and the 13 works that make up Flying Home and Other Stories, including six recently discovered early gems, are a fitting eulogy for one of the most powerful chroniclers of modern African-American life. The stories include ”A Party Down at the Square,” a disturbingly powerful account of the burning of a black man as seen through the eyes of a young white boy, and ”Flying Home,” about a black Air Force pilot who crashes in a white man’s field. Taken together, these pieces quietly but implacably paint a portrait of a time — America from the ’30s to the ’50s — and a man — the author himself, as the putative ”black everyman” — as he journeys from youth to adult awareness. Some of the pieces are first-person, some are third-, but all have the same simplicity of tone and subtlety of vision. Ellison trained as a musician before he became a writer, and his words fairly sing on the page. Thanks to those melodies, Ellison will never be an invisible man. A

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