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Going to Meet the Man: Stories Paperback – April 25, 1995

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"There's no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it." The men and women in these eight short fictions grasp this truth on an elemental level, and their stories, as told by James Baldwin, detail the ingenious and often desperate ways in which they try to keep their head above water. It may be the heroin that a down-and-out jazz pianist uses to face the terror of pouring his life into an inanimate instrument. It may be the brittle piety of a father who can never forgive his son for his illegitimacy. Or it may be the screen of bigotry that a redneck deputy has raised to blunt the awful childhood memory of the day his parents took him to watch a black man being murdered by a gleeful mob.
By turns haunting, heartbreaking, and horrifying--and informed throughout by Baldwin's uncanny knowledge of the wounds racism has left in both its victims and its perpetrators--Going to Meet the Man is a major work by one of our most important writers.

About the Author

James Baldwin was the author of Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Fire Next Time, among other books.

"From the Hardcover edition."

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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (April 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761792
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Baldwin's ability to weave through various times throughout a story is exemplified best in "Sonny's Blues," where he alludes to Isiah with the cup of trembling, and moves through different periods of Harlem, the childhoods and young lives of the narrator and his brother, the constants, in the church and the community and the music, which tells that same story, which must be retold, again and again. The way Baldwin writes about music is virtually unparallelled. In these short stories, he manages to stay clear of the sometimes excessive sentimentality that comes out in novels like Another Country. We sympathize with everyone, we see everyone's need for love, the intense loneliness of human experience, and the individual alienation and experience that results from societal divisions of race and sexuality. The first two stories contain the same characters from his famous first novel Go Tell it on The Mountain. The biblical imagery in these stories is not always pronounced as it may be in Go Tell..., but Baldwin's command of the bible show us the fear and the decadence that it exalts even when the allusions are abstract. The cup of trembling, the sight of the father's foot in the first story. Baldwin is a writer whom people have expected something out of and have been disappointed with because he does not fit into the desired mold of the black writer or the gay writer or even the american writer. He can be an objective political essayist or a sentimental dramatist, and here, he offers cold, somewhat detatched portraits of american lives which are among the best portraits of these people ever written. He puts the lives of marginal americans, from poor white rural southerners, to expatriates, and black urban displaced men and women, into the dramatic realm that hints of myth. His descriptions are riveting, his sexual honesty can be rude, exposing the reader to the America that exposed him.
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Format: Paperback
Each of the stories contained in this book deal frankly and honestly with the fear and agony associated with love, hate, prejudice and the suffering humans endure at the hands of their fellow man. All the stories are intense, haunting and in the case of the title story, "Going to Meet the Man", just plain chilling. Other notable stories are "The Man Child", "Sonny's Blues" and "Previous Condition". This is a good place to start if you're just discovering James Baldwin. Also recommended are his novels, "Giovanni's Room", "Another Country" and "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone".
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Format: Paperback
'Going to Meet the Man' is a diverse collection of short stories which attempt to explain the psyche of young black American boys/men in the early 1950s. Yes, there is anger and frustration. But the author's excellent prose elevate the stories beyond stereotype. He is compassionate without making these characters into martyrs of white America.
Of course many will argue these stories are badly dated. And true, America has moved on (generally for the better) since the early 1950s. But it would be unfortunate to overlook these stories for this reason. Baldwin captures the essence of where American society has come from, and we can all learn from history. I also feel it is unfortunate that nearly all the readers of "Going to Meet The Man' will be African-Americans, unlike myself (..who have the most to learn).
Bottom line: terrific tidbits showing Baldwin's brilliance. A worthy read.
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Format: Paperback
I am slowly understanding why Mr. Baldwin elected to leave the United States for more than a decade in the 1940s and 1950s. He apparently is on record as saying that he needed to flee because his anger was going to destroy him if he did not seek a respite from American injustice.

Upon reading this collection, I think I am really beginning to understand what must have been going through his mind. Read "Previous Condition" where a young African American man keeps being thrown out of hotels and denied jobs simply because of the color of his skin. There is nowhere he can go without meeting the hostile glances and conspiratorial whispers of people on the street simply because of his skin color. And there is a moment where it all came into focus for me, standing in the kitchen of his Jewish friend's Jules' apartment. And I quote:

"Oh," I cried, "I know you think I'm making it dramatic, that I'm paranoiac and just inventing trouble! Maybe I think so sometimes, how can I tell? You get so used to being hit you find you're always waiting for it. Oh, I know, you're Jewish, you get kicked around, too, but you can walk into a bar and nobody knows you're Jewish and if you go looking for job you'll get a better job than mine!" (78)

It is deeply disturbing to think that a person has the suspicion and rage of the world cocked against their temple, but that was how it was (and still is). I have read much about the Civil Rights struggle and as a Jew myself, have listened to many stories from members of my family about prejudice but these stories, they uncover something.
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Format: Paperback
James Baldwin is known primarily for his essays and his first two novels ("Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Giovanni's Room"), but I often tell readers that the place to start is with his first story collection, "Going to Meet the Man." Baldwin's short fiction is more straightforward and accessible than are his essays (which are indeed excellent); each of the eight stories presents a different aspect of Baldwin's worldview; and unlike his early novels, where racism is treated as one aspect in the lives of characters, several of these stories confront the "racial issue" full on.

Baldwin's short fiction may be easier to read, but it does not avoid uncomfortable truths. In fact, some of Baldwin's most heated writing can be found in this volume, which was first published in 1965. It contains work written over a 20-year-period, including "Previous Condition," the first piece of fiction he ever published (in Commentary Magazine in 1948). A fledgling actor is torn between the black world of Harlem ("perfectly in his element, in his place, as the saying goes") and the white neighborhoods downtown. He stays at a friend's apartment in lower Manhattan, but has to hide from the landlord and leave the building at odd hours to avoid being seen by the other residents ("Why don't you go uptown, where you belong?").

Each of the other stories is unforgettable in its own way, but my two favorites open and close the volume. "The Rockpile" is an early (yet different) version of an episode in "Go Tell It on the Mountain"; two of Baldwin's strengths are his ability to capture the memories of youth and to present the complexities of family life. The incendiary title story that ends the volume depicts a white police officer whose racial attitudes were formed by a lynching he witnessed as a child.
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