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The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings Hardcover – August 24, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307378829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307378828
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Randall Kenan, author of LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD and A VISITATION OF SPIRITS, has edited the uncollected writing of James Baldwin for which we can all be grateful. The book is divided into Essays and Speeches, Profiles, Letters, Forewords and Afterwords, Book Reviews and Fiction. The writings cover 1947 when Baldwin was writing book reviews until the year of his death in 1987 when Baldwin was at the height of his powers in what is one of the best articles included here, "To Crush a Serpent."

No subject is off limits for Mr. Baldwin as he writes unflinchingly about white racism, Jews, black power, black English and religious fundamentalism. He has an open letter to Angela Davis and essays on Sidney Poitier and Lorraine Hansberry. Baldwin is a hard marker. In his review of the novel THE MOTH by James M. Cain-- probably most famous for THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY-- he says simply "Mr. Cain is no novelist: he has, indeed, his first sentence still to write; he has yet to achieve his first valid characterization." But it is Mr. Baldwin on the role of the Negro in America that he is sharpest and that he will probably be remembered for in a hundred years rather than his book reviews. I can think of no writer who has written better or with more passion on race in America than this great writer.

Time and time again Baldwin refers to what he calls "the nighmare of history" and laments that no one seems to learn from that history. In his essay "The Price May Be Too High," he opines that white people are beyond hope." And to persuade black boys and girls that their lives are less than other lives is "the sin against the Holy Ghost. He reminds us that slave labor made this country wealthy and that the American prison is filled with dark people.
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Format: Hardcover
Yet to begin with this book is like buying a collection of Jimi Hendrix studio out takes and concert bootlegs and claiming to have heard and to know his oeuvre.

Begin, rather, with Go Tell It on the Mountain and work forward through the novels, all of them.

And the political analysrs intended for publication.

Read then, only then, and just as carefully, this rich banquest of leftovers, from one of our deepest thinkers and most gifted literary stylists in American English.

And come to know our America, backwards and forwards, inside and out.

For context read as well the complete works of Richard Wright, such as Richard Wright : Later Works: Black Boy (American Hunger), The Outsider, and the great work of Ralph Ellison, the greatest anglo American novel, Invisible Man. His next novel tragically was lost in a mysterious house fire and never completely resurrected.

They simply do not teach this stuff in our schools anymore, as we must.

Know our history. Read these great works of American writing.
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Format: Hardcover
It's always a great pleasure to return to Baldwin's unmatched prose. The first thing you ask of a writer is that he can write (a question too rarely answered in the affirmative), and Baldwin used the English language as well as anyone has done.

This brings me to the first of a few quibbles about the book. A few of the longer pieces are not in fact "written", or at least not written in the form presented here. I don't know the extent to which Baldwin wrote a script for his speeches, but he clearly didn't stick to it. And he certainly didn't write the words he spoke in debates and discussions. A couple of the longer pieces fall into this "unwritten" category. And while the pieces may never have been collected together in one volume, many have certainly been collected somewhere, as half were familiar to me and only one of those from its original source.

The more significant problem is that while some of the writing in here is as good as anything Baldwin has written, a lot of it is relatively casual (insofar as Baldwin's writing was ever casual) and ephemeral stuff. In passing we learn how much effort and care went into "Another Country" and the "Down at the Cross" (the major part of "The Fire Next Time"), and you wonder what Baldwin would have thought of a rather random collection of pieces like this one. It would certainly be a shame to begin your knowledge of Baldwin with this book.

But there is more than enough great writing, passion and (over four traumatic decades) consistent bravery of thought and analysis to savour and encourage you to revisit the best of his writing.
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Format: Hardcover
The collection begins with Baldwin discussing writing and his motivation for writing, Mass Culture and the Creative Artist: Some Personal Notes. At the center of Baldwin's writing, according to Baldwin, is the search for, recognizing and dealing with truth. He states that it's the novelist responsibility; a writer's calling to tell the truth. The writer is to expose all of the truth he can bear and then go a little farther. The purpose of the artist is to reveal the truth of his people. Baldwin held himself and other writers to this standard.

In other essays, Baldwin examines the limits, nuances, styles, the elasticity and various characteristics of language. He states his opinions on the validity of black language, Language, Race and the Black Writer, and on what we now call Ebonics, Black English: a Dishonest Argument as well as the validity of jazz and blues as literary narrative forms, The Use of the Blues and Of The Sorrow Songs: The Cross of Redemption.

Baldwin states the purpose of his writing was to tell the truth. He succeeds. The Cross of Redemption is a remarkable collection.

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