Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Apr 28, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages
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This absorbing collection of letters spans a decade in the lifelong friendship of two remarkable writers who engaged the subjects of literature, race, and identity with deep clarity and passion.

The correspondence begins in 1950 when Ellison is living in New York City, hard at work on his enduring masterpiece, Invisible Man, and Murray is a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Mirroring a jam session in which two jazz musicians "trade twelves"—each improvising twelve bars of music around the same musical idea-their lively dialog centers upon their respective writing, the jazz they both love so well, on travel, family, the work literary contemporaries (including Richard Wright, James Baldwin, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway) and the challenge of racial inclusiveness that they wish to pose to America through their craft. Infused with warmth, humor, and great erudition, Trading Twelves offers a glimpse into literary history in the making—and into a powerful and enduring friendship.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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About the author (2010)

Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma in 1914. He is the author of the novel Invisible Man (1952), as well as numerous essays and short stories. He died in New York City in 1994. Random House published Juneteenth, the book-length excerpt from his unfinished second novel,  posthumously in 1999.

Albert Murray was born in Alabama in 1916. A cultural critic, biographer, essayist, and novelist, he has taught at several colleges, including Colgate and Barnard, and his works include The Omni-Americans, South to a Very Old Place, Train Whistle Guitar, The Blue Devils of Nada, and The Seven League Boots.  Murray lives in New York City.  

John F. Callahan is Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He is the editor of Juneteenth and the Modern Library edition of The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison. Callahan is the literary executor of Ralph Ellison's estate.

From the Hardcover edition.

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