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James Baldwin : Collected Essays : Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays (Library of America) Hardcover – February 1, 1998
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Writer James Baldwin earnestly championed the civil rights movement in both his fiction and nonfiction, a fact which, coupled with his extraordinary writing talent, assured not only his historical importance, but also his place as one of the finest African American writers of his generation. Collected Essays is a comprehensive collection of his most memorable prose, including "Stranger in the Village," "The Harlem Ghetto," and "Many Thousands Gone." Clear in voice and vision, the essays communicate the emotions of an entire historical movement. Combining politics, prophecy, and passion, Baldwin's essays are truly as thought-provoking today as they were some 30 years ago.
From Publishers Weekly
Baldwin's impassioned essays have been at least as influential as his novels in exposing the racial polarization of American society. This massive compilation reproduces in their entirety his early essay collections?Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), The Fire Next Time (1963)?as well as his later, less successful book-length essays?the pessimistic, doom-laden No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976), a semi-autobiographical gloss on American movies. The book charts his trajectory from eloquent voice of the civil rights movement to disillusioned expatriate increasingly prone to grandiloquence and angry rhetoric. Also included is a miscellany of 36 articles, polemics and reviews, 26 of which were previously collected in The Price of the Ticket (1985), published just two years before Baldwin's death from cancer in France at age 63. Novelist Morrison's editing of this omnibus, which includes a chronology and notes, should help rekindle interest in Baldwin, whose recurrent themes?the African American search for identity, the hypocrisy of white America, the urgent necessity for love?make his work timely and challenging. BOMC and Reader's Subscription selections.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name were two early collections which were autobiographical in nature. However, these essays reveal Baldwin only as a political, social, and cultural critic; he reveals very little of himself as a living, breathing human being.
In The Fire Next Time, one of Baldwin's most celebrated works, he continues his political, social, and cultural criticism, but the shades are drawn back slightly so that we are able to capture glimpses of the man behind these essays. He returns to the pattern established with his first two essay collections with No Name in the Street. The Devil Finds Work is an odd work of film criticism that stands in stark contrast to his other collections.
The editor, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, assembles an excellent collection of essays for the final section of the book. Not all essays are equal in quality, but Baldwin's essay on Martin Luther King is particularly noteworthy.
I had begun to fear that Baldwin spoke only of his political, social, and cultural views in his essays, and avoided anything that might reveal his personal life and feelings. Fortunately, Baldwin's full character breaks through in the final three essays, giving us a fuller portrait of a well rounded life. These three essays are perhaps the finest included in this collection, thus showing the value of slogging through every one of the 842 pages that make up this text.
The volume is almost but not quite comprehensive. The chronology appended to the end of the body of the text makes tantalizing references to essays I would have liked to have read. My guess is that rights issues prevented those essays from being included in this book. Nevertheless, this is an outstanding work which gives deep insight into one of the leading writers of the 20th century.