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Trading Twelves

The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray

by Ralph Ellison Author · Albert Murray Author


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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.

Publication Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Ralph Ellison (Author)

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 unf...

More about Ralph Ellison


Author of introduction, etc. :
John Callahan
Editor :
John Callahan
Author :
Albert Murray
Other :
Albert Murray
Author :
Ralph Ellison
Trading Twelves
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