From Publishers Weekly
Starred 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Growing up poor, black, and gay in a household dominated by an abusive preacher stepfather, Baldwin gained perspective on every prejudice indulged by America in his lifetime—an epic saga from poverty and obscurity to comfort and world renown. This collection offers Baldwin’s previously uncollected essays, profiles, reviews, and letters, fully displaying the breadth of his struggle to come to terms with the injustice and, worse, the immorality of life in a nation that prided itself on equality. Baldwin is biting and insightful in his critique of religious fundamentalism, the prospects of a black president, the hypocrisy of the American art and cultural scene, the challenges of black nationalism, and the complexities of race and identity. In the long passages of his essays and the short, acerbic comments in his interviews, Baldwin shows a masterful sweep of language and ideas and feelings that continues to resonate. --Vanessa Bush