(MOBI) Collected Essays by James Baldwin

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    Dave Seaman

    Collected Essays
    Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays

    by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison

    Collected Essays · Click Here

    • Author: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison
    • Language: english
    • Genres: essays, race, history, classics, literature, politics, memoir
    • Release date: February 1, 1998
    • Publisher: Library of America (NY)
    • Format: hardcover, 869 pages
    • ISBN: 9781883011529 (1883011523)

    About The Book

    Though one of the giants of 20th-century American letters he’s often been marginalized, relegated to the ghetto of writers about race. This perception of Baldwin solely as a black writer — and thus one whose interest lies primarily in the sociological or the documentary — undercuts the real importance he’s had in the development of postwar literature. The Library of America celebrates his place at the heart of American culture with two volumes of his most influential work, both edited by Toni Morrison.

    The first of these collects Baldwin’s early fiction, including the novels Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, & Another Country, & the short story collection Going to Meet the Man. The second brings together most of his published essays, including those found in such volumes as Notes of a Native Son & The Fire Next Time, as well as many collected here for the first time.

    Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924, the stepson of a Baptist preacher. He experienced conversion at age 14 & spent the next 3 years as a Pentecostal minister. By 17, however, he’d been introduced to the Greenwich Village art & music scenes. He left the church at the end of his senior high school year & began his life as an artist.

    Baldwin is most remembered for his writings on race, which began with a number of reviews of books on “the Negro problem, concerning which the color of my skin made me automatically an expert.” Throughout his career, however, he concerned himself less with the black experience per se than with the entire milieu of beliefs & prejudices that foster the painful relations experienced between the races.

    But even from his first novel, Baldwin complicated this view of race relations with the equally thorny problems of sexual relations. By age 18 he thought himself a homosexual. The first, inarticulate leanings of a young boy toward members of his own sex can be seen in Go Tell It on the Mountain, published in 1953. Inspired by his own experience, this novel portrays a young boy growing up in Harlem who buries his conflict with his parents — & the inner conflict surrounding his feelings about a young preacher at church — by experiencing his conversion, finding himself saved from his sins, both actual & potential.

    Giovanni’s Room, published in 1956, takes up these latent issues of sexuality & masculinity & makes them the central area of exploration. David, the narrator, attempts throughout to account for a sexuality he perceives as aberrant, while telling the story of the young man, Giovanni, whose life has been destroyed by David’s inability to deal honestly with him. It’s interesting to note that in this first real exploration of the issues of sexuality, Baldwin used white characters — as though he were equipped, at this early point in his career, to confront issues of either racial or sexual prejudice, but not both.

    By the time of Another Country, however, he’s brought these two fields of inquiry together. This third novel, published in 1962, is perhaps his most complex evocation of an entire social milieu, fraught with conflicts over the battle lines of race & sex. In it, Rufus Scott, a promising young black jazz musician, is driven to suicide after a disastrous affair with a young white woman brings all of his uncontrollable anger about the division between black and white into his daily life. The fallout from his death, as it affects each person whose life he touched, creates a hostile, unstable world in which all such conflicts are dragged to the surface.

    Baldwin was also a prolific essayist and playwright. He spent much of his life shuttling between Paris and NYC, as well as shuttling between genres. His essays demonstrate his deep involvement in both the literary and the political worlds, confronting the same set of interwoven conflicts as his novels, but in the turbulent social setting of postwar America.

    Published in 1963, The Fire Next Time may be his most influential work, a penetrating analysis of the racial divide in the USA that serves as both a message of hope and a warning: “If we — and now I mean the relatively conscious whites & the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create the consciousness of others — do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!”

    Baldwin died in 1987 of esophageal cancer. While he was alive, he spoke loud and long about the many battle lines that divide our country. These Library of America editions are the ideal format for that voice, which deserves to be preserved, treasured — and most of all, read. — �Kathleen Fitzpatrick (edited)

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