Review by Choice Review
Picking up where the Library of America's James Baldwin: Collected Essays, ed. by Toni Morrison (1998), leaves off, this volume gathers uncollected writings and thus broadens the reader's perspective on Baldwin and his work. A novelist as well as a scholar, Kenan (Univ. of Memphis) includes essays, speeches, letters, book reviews, some book forewords and afterwords, sketches of Sidney Poitier and boxers Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston, and the short story "The Death of a Prophet." He calls the collection "a GPS map of the geography of [Baldwin's] mind's progress." And indeed the collection serves just that purpose, leading the reader through Baldwin's impressions of prizefighting, black nationalism, the role of the church, the blues, and other towering writers of the 20th century. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. D. J. Rosenthal John Carroll University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Baldwin's published essays have been already twice collected (The Price of the Ticket and the posthumous Library of America Collected Essays), but there are gems in this collection compiled by Kenan (Let the Dead Bury the Dead): "The Fight: Patterson vs. Liston" is as impeccably crafted as a short story; "Blacks and Jews" captures the speaking Baldwin and echoes the call-and-response tradition. The 54 pieces, none previously appearing in book form, range from Baldwin's first published book review in 1947 to a 1984 colloquy with college students. Baldwin's topic can often be subsumed under race, but he most consistently wrestles with questions of moral integrity-in the language ("The Uses of the Blues"), in the artist's work ("Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare"), in the assessment of history ("On Being White... and Other Lies"), and in one's personal life ("To Crush a Serpent"). Kenan's introduction and headnotes are models of critical good sense; his awareness of both "Baldwin's achievements that beggar the imagination," and of the "grab bag" quality of some pieces makes him the perfect shepherd for these "lost" works. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A grab bag of pieces from novelist and firebrand Baldwin (19241987), varying in quality but marked by his trademark ferocity.The author's best-known and most powerful nonfiction pieces have long been available in book form (The Price of the Ticket, 1985, etc.), so inevitably this book has a B-list feel to it. Most disposable are the book reviews he wrote in the late '40s, which reveal a writer struggling to find his voice, and in which he takes swipes at Maxim Gorky, Erskine Caldwell and James M. Cain with little subtlety or insight. But by the late '50s and early '60s, Baldwin's thinking about American racism matured, balancing reason and outrage, and many of the pieces are worthy companions to his provocative essay collection The Fire Next Time (1963). In "As Much Truth as One Can Bear," published in 1962, he pleads for an American literature that abandons lost-innocence themes embraced by Hemingway and Faulkner, and throughout his '60s essays he critiques an American society that had failed to face its hypocrisy head-on. The book is perhaps best read as a showcase for Baldwin's versatilityhe was comfortable covering theater, music and sports through the filter of race. In a long-form reported piece on the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston prizefight in 1962, the author displays an admirable eye for detail of the boxers as well as the reporters and hangers-on. Similarly, a series of letters from Turkey, Israel and France expose his private concerns about his work as he was finishing his controversial novel Another Country (1962), while the transcript of a 1984 panel on blacks and Jews provides evidence of how well Baldwin could think on the fly.There are too many ephemeral or weakly written pieces to appeal beyond Baldwin's devoted admirers, but the best of the '60s essays underscore the reasons his work endures.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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