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The Devil Finds Work (Vintage International) Paperback – International Edition, September 13, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one.” —Michael Ondaatje

“The best essayist in this countrya man whose power has always been in his reasoned, biting sarcasm; his insistence on removing layer by layer the hardened skin with which Americans shield themselves from their country.” —The New York Times Book Review

“It will be hard for the reader to see these films in quite the same way again.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“He has taken the old subject of race and made it even more personal probing perhaps more deeply than ever before into American racial practices.”  —The Nation
 
“A provocative discussion.” —Saturday Review

From the Inside Flap

James Baldwin At The Movies...  Provocative, timeless, brilliant.

Bette Davis's eyes, Joan Crawford's bitchy elegance, Stepin Fetchit's stereotype, Sidney Poitier's superhuman black man...  These are the movie stars and the qualities that influenced James Baldwin...  and now become part of his incisive look at racism in American movies.

Baldwin challenges the underlying assumptions in such films as In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and The Exorcist, offering us a vision of America's self-delusions and deceptions.  Here are our loves and hates, biases and cruelties, fears and ignorance reflected by the films that have entertained us and shaped our consciousness.  And here, too, is the stunning prose of a writer whose passion never diminished his struggle for equality, justice, and social change.

From The Birth of a Nation to The Exorcist--one of America's most important writers turns his critical eye to American film.


From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Int edition (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307275957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307275950
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America's foremost writers. His essays, such as "Notes of a Native Son" (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France.

His novels include Giovanni's Room (1956), about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country (1962), about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals. His inclusion of gay themes resulted in much savage criticism from the black community. Going to Meet the Man (1965) and Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone (1968) provided powerful descriptions of American racism. As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In this short work, Baldwin tries his hand at film criticism--and his unique and perceptive observations will change the way any filmgoer will watch movies. While Baldwin's focus is on racial representation (and misrepresentation) in the cinema, he expands his comments to various national obsessions that are reflected on the screen. As with most of Baldwin's work, there is power and precision in every sentence--and he nearly always quotable.

The essay is divided into three chapters. In the first, Baldwin discusses his adolescent love of movies and how it conflicted with his brief career as an adolescent minister in a church where the cinema (and the theater) were both regarded as "the devil's work" (thus, one of the implications of the title). The movies he dissects range from "A Tale of Two Cities" to Fritz Lang's "You Only Live Once," and he contrast the experience of film-watching with that of live theater, recalling Orson Welles's production of "Macbeth," which featured an all-black cast.

In the second chapter, Baldwin hits his stride, tearing into the patronizing portrayal of non-white roles in such films as "In the Heat of the Night," "In This, Our Life," "The Defiant Ones," and "Lawrence of Arabia." Baldwin observes about a type that reappears in many movies of the first seventy years of cinema: "It so happens that I saw 'The Birth of the Nation' and 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' on the same day . . . [Yet] in two films divided from each other by something like half a century, [there was] the same loyal [black] maid, playing the same role, and speaking the same lines." Noting how this stereotypical woman never seems to have her own family and how her only concerns are those of her white masters or employers, Baldwin exclaims: "How many times have we seen her!
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Format: Paperback
Baldwin's keen dissection of racial myth and other forms of dangerous fantasy pedaled by film in its century-plus existence is logical, concise and jaw-dropping. His eerie parallel of "The Birth of a Nation" with "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" and discussion of the "superhuman black man" are especially timely in the wake of the election of the first African-American president, a man sometimes compared to Portier. We have a long way to go before divesting ourselves of such imagery, and this often overlooked book of essays is a start.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is bright light, beaming into some of the most hidden places in America and American history with supreme personal honesty and recall. For anyone who takes film seriously as a - potentially - civilizing medium, this book is incandescent.
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I recommend this to anyone interested in gaining insight into the human spirit. Very well written and captures the sympathy of the reader.
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I see the devil every day, he is the members of my church who tell me they are more important than I.
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