• Invisible Man

  • A Novel
  • By: Ralph Ellison
  • Narrated by: Joe Morton
  • Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (8,632 ratings)

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Invisible Man

By: Ralph Ellison
Narrated by: Joe Morton
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Publisher's Summary

A Go On Girl! Book Club Pick

Ralph Elllison's Invisible Man is a monumental novel, one that can well be called an epic of 20th-century African-American life. It is a strange story, in which many extraordinary things happen, some of them shocking and brutal, some of them pitiful and touching - yet always with elements of comedy and irony and burlesque that appear in unexpected places. 

After a brief prologue, the story begins with a terrifying experience from the hero's high-school days; it then moves quickly to the campus of a "Southern Negro college" and then to New York's Harlem, where most of the action takes place. 

The many people that the hero meets in the course of his wanderings are remarkably various, complex and significant. With them he becomes involved in an amazing series of adventures, in which he is sometimes befriended but more often deceived and betrayed - as much by himself and his own illusions as by the duplicity and the blindness of others. 

Invisible Man is not only a great triumph of storytelling and characterization; it is a profound and uncompromising interpretation of the anomalous position of Blacks in American society. 

©1952 Ralph Ellison (P)2010 Random House

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What listeners say about Invisible Man

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How Did This Escape Me?

I've never been one to deplore my lack of quality education in public school. I figured that whatever I missed was likely due to inattentiveness and lack of inquisitiveness on my part; but after reading INVISIBLE MAN, I finally come away insensed! Angry and insensed that this book was not assigned to me as part of my upbringing. Even if I can forgive my public schools, then I must blame my private / public university and well-heeled graduate educations for not at least trying to make me aware that this great literature exploring MY American background exists. While I was raised in the most caucasion of caucasion communities, I feel I should still have been made aware--by somebody!--that I needed to read INVISIBLE MAN!

Well . .. now that I've raved a bit, I must admit that even in grad school I wasn't always the most attentive of students. I was deeply involved in whatever topics were discussed at hand, and I wrote stellar essays, I suppose . . . but I might have been daydreaming the day(s) that Ellison's profound influence on modern literature and social and racial issues was discussed . . . perhaps. What a masterpiece. I will read and study it again, and do all I can to influence persons whose education I hope for to read it and read it well.

By the way, if a reader orders this after reading my rant here, please make sure you listen to the introduction. It helps. The book is exquisitely performed and masterfully written. Not only does it provide an essential piece in one's education, but it's also a great, entertaining, riveting, and even humorous in many ways, read.

80 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Overwhelming

This is a difficult book. On the one hand, this is a young man's story and it should be read by young people. The lessons in it are invaluable especially to those who might not have yet become aware of how power works; especially in the United States. I wish I read this just after getting out of high school.

On the other hand, reading The Invisible Man and grasping what it is about is, I think, nearly impossible for a young person. To a young person (like a younger me) Ellison's wisdom would sound, I presume, like the rantings of an old drunk in a dive bar. It's a rollercoaster of things that sound embellished. If such a drunk starts to tell you of the terrible things he's seen and done you look for the exit. And so you put away the book.

Sadly, if we could pay attention to the drunk we would learn things that change our lives--not that Ellison is a drunk in a dive bar; far from it. The world might start appearing in it's true and terrifying colors. But we're too damn young and arrogant to pay attention.

The Invisible Man is a life-changing book in the same way. Reading it when young is impossible, and reading when old excruciating. Brilliantly, this is precisely the dilemma of the protagonist, who doesn't see 'it' until it is too late.

I can't think of a comperable American novel. Gore Vidal was absolutely right in saying that the 'Battle Royale' section in a different novel would make it excellent. In The Invisible Man, it's just one of a series of equally eye-opening vignettes about America and Americans.

And this is not a book just about being black in America. To say so is an injustice to its brilliance. Ellison's insights can and should be generalized to all the relationships between the haves and the have-nots. Most of all, to the power dynamics between the young hungry masses and the old satiated elites. The protagonist's journey is a story of any young person's confrontation with real power. This is Kafka with an AK-47.

53 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

You've been waiting, buy it, you won't be sorry...

Ralph Ellison's masterpiece comes to life in the hands and voices of Joe Morton. The author's prose is alive, urgent, commanding of your attention.

This is a reading which perfectly matches narrator to subject matter. Mr. Morton is to be commended for his dazzling ability to traverse generation, race, nationality, gender and regional dialects with ease, often in the same sentence. Many passages which deal with multiple voices, the narrator along with other speakers, are confronted with natural ease and pacing. I found, on several occasions, I had to pleasantly remind myself there was only one person responsible for the many clearly identifiable characters.

Invisible Man's absence from the Audible catalog has finally been rectified, and thankfully it has been given the reading and treatment it deserves.

49 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Masterfully written; perfectly narrated

What made the experience of listening to Invisible Man the most enjoyable?

It is a compelling story, full of the suspense and uncertainty that could plague any invisible man. It is also a fascinating guided tour of the main character's feelings: how invisibility feels to him, and how he feels about the fact that he is invisible.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Invisible Man?

The moment when the main character experiences his second major surprise; when he realizes that he had still been running.

What about Joe Morton’s performance did you like?

It was perfect. At no point did I notice that the book was being narrated. I felt all through that the voice I was hearing was that of the main character.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I did not have an "extreme" reaction to the book, but I feel that it is one of the most memorable books that I will ever read.

Any additional comments?

This book is more than a mere good story or complex opinion piece. I feel that to fully appreciate this work, one must be ready to openly contemplate the themes therein.

42 people found this helpful

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Brilliant!

I remember seeing this book on my parents' bookshelf when I was a kid. I don't know what made me finally decide to check it out, but I am SO glad that I did! First of all, Ellison's writing is phenomenal. So vivid and bursting with rich, poetic detail. Second, actor Joe Morton's narration was so stunning and passionate, I felt like I was listening to a stage play. His performance was genius! Another reviewer mentioned that this was well worth getting and I couldn't agree more. It's a masterpiece.

Ellison's social commentary is sadly, still applicable today in some ways. But this story is told in a way that doesn't preach to the reader. Just enlightens. It is a fantastic listen--bravo to both Ellison and Morton.

33 people found this helpful

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This Great American Novel

Joe Morton lives and breathes this wonderful look into the life of an exceptional American who tells a story of life in this country. We couldn't have had a better, more passionate narrator.

Ellison delivers to us a rare glimpse into the lives of those who truly depict the soul of America and the state of the country in all its savage complexity and psychopathic depravity. The man with no name is all of us. Ellison says, in one book, what many great novelists take their entire careers to say. This is America at the crossroads and at the beginning of modern American civil rights.

It's a great book and a superb production.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Boring

For some reason I thought I would get this book because I'm black, but I realize race just wasn't enough to enjoy it. I'm ashamed to say I couldnt get past the first 3hrs, it just sound like rants, raves, and rambling. I keep saying to myself 1hr, ok 30m, then I said 90m and that's it! Even that was torture, I hope you have better luck.

18 people found this helpful

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Sometimes it is best not to awaken them...

“I remember that I'm invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

I can't believe I waited so long to read this. But part of me thinks I needed to wait to read this. Maybe, and this is hard to admit, maybe I wasn't ready for Ralph Ellison's masterpiece in my twenties or thirties. It was a fever dream. A jazz narrative. A hallucination of pain, beauty, struggle, and life. It was a Hegelian dialectic. It was a black whale just as real as Melville's Moby Dick. It still has me firmly in its grip. There are scenes in this book that are burnt into my mind and tattooed on my soul.

15 people found this helpful

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A true American classic that I love!

First, thank you Don Katz and Audible for making this novel available to Audible members at no cost. Had I known it was available and narrated by Joe Morton I would have happily used an Audible credit. Next, thank you actor Joe Morton for narrating Invisible Man. It has been almost 15 years since I listened your magnificent voice narrate an audio novel and then it was on tape. You set the standard for narration of audiobooks to which the best today aspire.

At this point I have listened to 5 hours of this 19+ hour audio novel, but I first read Invisible Man during the late fall of 1961 during my first semester in college at UNC-Chapel Hill. That was 55 years ago and it was almost a decade after the novel was first published.

For those who have not listened to or read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man there lies ahead not just a great novel, but a unique one that is literally unlike any other. There is no use looking for comparisons; they do not exist. It is written in the first person of the protagonist who is never identified by any name other than singular pronouns. The novel is as complex as any you will ever encounter. The protagonist is literally invisible (except to some other "Negros"), but he can react to and physically impact through his actions the world around him. The author and the protagonist are black males and the time period begins in the Jim Crow south and moves to the equally, but differently, racist north, so race is a key facet of the novel. But to say race is the only key facet of the novel would be incorrect. Listen to this unique and uniquely beautiful and troubling audio novel narrated by the very best.

The author is of course Ralph Ellison and it is his only novel although he did release two books of essays. The book is best understood as a semi biographical novel. When Ellison began to write Invisible man he was approximately 35 years old and had moved from Alabama to New York City well over a decade earlier (most of his youth was in Oklahoma). WWII had ended and Ellison's involvement with Communism was in his past. He clearly viewed fictional literature as far more than an art form; he viewed it as an instrument for change. Today Ellison is remembered most for this novel and for his teaching at various universities.

Listen and understand the perspective of a black man! By the way, if you have not listened to Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin I highly recommend it and the cost at Audible is $5.95. It presents the a view of horrid racism mixed with some unexpected kindnesses in the Jim Crow south where I grew up better and more completely than any book I have read. I'm white but our closest neighbors and friends were a black family. Black Like Me is raw and real.

15 people found this helpful

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  • kd
  • 08-26-12

Love Joe Morton

Dense story, but it's a classic. What really made this story for me was Joe Morton's wonderful reading.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Susan Lynch
  • 10-18-20

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I had to read this book as part of my university module, I had not heard of it before. I found it excellent, interesting and riveting.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jon Porter
  • 05-22-20

Mindblowing

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and my favourite narrators are Frank Muller, Richard Poe and Samuel West, but as an individual all-round performance I think this is the greatest I've ever heard, including Frank Muller's Moby Dick and Richard Poe's Blood Meridian. Of course it helps that, like them, Mr Morton is working with a masterpiece too

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mr Image
  • 09-03-19

Outstanding narration!

Why why why? Had I left this for so long. An excellent book which took me on such a journey.
Stephen Fry is the best at narrating for me however this has equalled him. Joe Morton has excelled in making me put this in my all time top 20! Bravo!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Clara
  • 10-26-22

Brilliant and enriching

The writing profound, and sadly timeless, has much to teach us all.
Joe M's reading, a perfect, captivating performance.

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  • Ali
  • 08-12-21

Wow

Wow what a fantastic book. This book has been my favourite book on audible. The read is on another level. Joe Morton has a brilliant voice that just brings the words to life.

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  • danny
  • 06-17-21

A MUST READ

Masterpiece of the highest order!

So much of what the invisible man witnessed back in 1942 is still being employed today. Biden is Brother Jack, Clifton and the Brotherhood is BLM and Bledsoe is Don Lemon.

The only difference is there’s so many more invisible (Black) men in 2021.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-05-21

Highly recommended

Great novel, wonderful performer. It's a large novel and the beginning was a bit hard for me (I rarely listen to audiobooks of this length), but I quickly became absorbed into it. Still timely, revealing and intelligent, surely among the best American novels.

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  • Mr P
  • 02-27-21

A classic that needs to be listened to.

I would recommend this to any sociology student studying race and society. The narrator coast you through deception, hope and dreams of the main protagonist effortlessly. It is a great listen. It helped me get through lockdown.

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  • Stephen John
  • 01-25-21

Brilliant narration

Joe Mortan brought this story to life with different accents and varying cadance depending on the character and mood, although some parts of the story were over described and a little Laboured in my oppinon overall a decent listed.

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  • EM
  • 12-06-20

Great performance of a classic

Joe Morton is truly amazing in his performance of Invisible Man. He handles different voices with ease. He makes the book come alive.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 07-14-22

Great read

Enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, it does get a bit flat around the mid and last acts of the books. The narrator is engaging and really well done.