The Blogtoberfest train keeps partying along in a tornado of words and mixed metaphors! Today I have a short post talking about June’s book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable.
Ever since I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was about 20, I’ve been a big fan of the man. I’m probably not (OK, definitely not) within his target demographic when he was alive, but I just think he was a fascinating man. The whole series of transitions he made throughout his life were compelling to me, and I’ve always considered him a kind of hero, even if people may think I’m strange for saying that. So when I saw this book I was a bit wary, since no one wants their heroes to be knocked down. I was happy that in the end, this book just reaffirmed my respect for the man.
The book was good, but not as good or gripping as Malcolm X’s own autobiography, which is one of the few books I’ve re-read in my life. It’s not that I’m anti-reading, of course, but since I always have about 80 new books in mind that I’d like to read, I feel weird re-reading one I’ve already read. But when I read the autobiography both times, something just really gripped me in a way that this book doesn’t as much.
That’s not to say that Marable’s book isn’t good, though, because it really is. And the style is completely different. Marable even talks about Malcolm’s autobiography, and how in many ways it was an attempt to shape the narrative of his life, which many of us still believe today. It’s not that Malcolm was really being malicious or anything by embellishing his back story, but it was just that: a story, albeit a really good story. Most of it was fact, but if some fiction made it in there, it just enhanced it. And of course, that’s one fundamental difference between an autobiography and a biography, since the autobiographer will always be manipulating and/or selectively leaving parts out of the story.
The narrative that Marable presents is a lot more detailed, but it does basically have all of the main elements in the autobiography, as well as other parts that weren’t alluded to in the autobiography. It was also an enjoyable and interesting read, but it included a lot more facts and elements that didn’t necessarily make it more interesting. I’m thinking here of the names and descriptions of countless Nation of Islam members who had contact with Malcolm throughout his life. In reality, I know they were important for the part they played, but it just seemed like the cast of characters was so huge and hard to keep track of. And of course the autobiography didn’t talk about the assassination, so that was one thing that I found especially interesting about this book, since it went into a lot more detail.
So should you read this book? I guess if you’re a Malcolm X completist (if such a thing exists), then you already have, but if you’re really interested in learning more about this fascinating figure, I’d advise starting with the autobiography. Just keep in mind that it does have some flaws and limitations. If you’re still hungry for more afterwards, then come on over and read this book.
Speaking of reading, thanks for reading this blog. Have a good one!