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.
About the Author
Ralph Ellison was born in Okalahoma and trained as a musician at Tuskegee Institute from 1933 to 1936, at which time a visit to New York and a meeting with Richard Wright led to his first attempts at fiction. Invisible Man won the National Book Award and the Russwurm Award. Appointed to the Academy of American Arts and Letters in 1964, Ellison taught at many colleges including Bard College, the University of Chicago, and New York University where he was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities from 1970 through 1980. Ralph Ellison died in 1994.
Albert Murray was born in Nokomis, Alabama, in 1916. He grew up in Mobile and was educated at Tuskegee Institute, where he later taught literature and directed the college theater. He is a retired U.S. Air Force major. Albert Murray is author of "The Omni-Americans"; "Stomping the Blues"; "The Hero and the Blues"; "Train Whistle Guitar"; "The Spyglass Tree"; "The Seven League Boots"; "South to a Very Old Place"; "Conjugations and Reiterations"; and "From the Briarpatch File"; as well as co-author of "Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie "and "Trading Twelves": "The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray," He lives in New York City.
John F. Callahan is Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis and Clark College. He is literary executor for Ralph Ellison's estate.
“An invaluable slice of literary history.... Fascinating and endlessly informative.”–The Miami Herald
“The greatest pleasure to be found in Trading Twelves is the warmth of friendship.”–The New York Times Book Review
“The prospect of reading letters exchanged between Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray suggests an opportunity to eavesdrop on history in the making.”–The Washington Post Book World