Shadow and Act by Ralph Ellison is a 317-page paperback published by Vintage House, a division of Random House, New York, February 1972. Outside, there is the the slightest surface rubbing and faint crease along the front corner edge. Inside, the pages have the faintest tanning to the edges but otherwise, are clean.
These essays are a witness of that which I have known and that which I have tried and am still trying to confront. They mark a change of role, of course, and a slow precarious growth of consciousness. They were written in New York and in Rome, and the last were composed during my time as Writer-in-Residence at Rutgers University. The very least I can say about their value is that they performed the grateful function of making it unnecessary to clutter up my fiction with half-formed or outrageously wrong-headed ideas. At best they are an embodiment of a conscious attempt to confront, to peer into, the shadow of my past and to remind myself of the complex resources for imaginative creation which is my heritage. Consciousness and conscience are burdens imposed upon us by the American experiment. They are the American's agony, but when he tries to live up to their stern demands they become his justification. What more is there to say? What more need to be said?
--Ralph Ellison, May, 1964
"A book that will be remembered...it is important...a body of cogent and subtle commentary on the questions that focus on race. It is, in its allusive way, the autobiography of a strong and sensitive man, who happens to be a gifted artist."
--Robert Penn Warren