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Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone Paperback – February 17, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Baldwin is one of the few genuinely indispensable American writers."
--Saturday Review

"He has not himself lost access to the sources of his being--which is what makes him read and awaited by perhaps a wider range of people than any other major American writer."
--The Nation

From the Publisher

"Baldwin is one of the few genuinely indispensable American writers."
--Saturday Review

"He has not himself lost access to the sources of his being--which is what makes him read and awaited by perhaps a wider range of people than any other major American writer."
--The Nation

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375701893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701894
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Does it sound trite in cold print to say that a book changed your life? In college in the 1970s, a friend suggested this novel to me, and it was my first exposure to James Baldwin. For the first time in my life, I felt I was reading about *me*. Baldwin's gift in writing about how people try to find dignity and self-worth in a world not of their own choosing is breathtaking and heartfelt. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will feel great empathy with Baldwin's work. In Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, Baldwin focuses on the shifting relationships between a small group of people trying to work out who they are and how they can be true to themselves in an environment that's often uncaring. Over and over I was struck by the amount of raw experience Baldwin poured onto each page, and the amount of pain that must have been behind each sentence. As the years have gone by, I've also found that you can reread Baldwin at different stages of your life and see something different each time.
Baldwin may be better known for his essays than his fiction, but I've always found his fiction more powerful. This novel, and Just Above My Head, are two of the most beautiful works I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback
If Giovanni's Room is an unresolved love story between two men, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone puts its protagonist in the center of social spotlight where ideals of ethnics, politics, and sex force him to put on a mask. Leo Proudhammer, a 39-years-old black man, suffers from a heart attack at the height of his theatrical career, forcing him to abort all ongoing performance and rehearsal. As he hovers between life and death, James Baldwin delineates a tapestry of human life that is terrifyingly vulnerable - through the meticulous choices that have rendered him enviously famous in theater, through the racial and gay covering that have split him into multiple identities.

There exists something edgy and cruel about a childhood riddled with braving the Harlem streets. Proudhammer often found him in the spotlight of eyes: eyes of children who outjocked him, eyes of the white cops toward whom he felt a rush of murderous hatred, and the tell-tale eyes of the older folks who suspected of his sexuality. The prose sustains a tincture of anguish, a tinge of paranoid, of being black in a society that at times seems poised on the brink of unstoppable racial war owing the ludicrous demands to cover stereotype associated with both race and sexuality.

The theatrical industry which Proudhammer desires throws him further in disguises. Ironically it is through the many disguises he wears that he comes to term with his means. Instead of fleeing from the truth, he is approaching the reality. Disguises in a sense help make the truth a quantity with which he can live. In the juggling selves, Proudhammer retains loyalty to a white woman and a young black man. At first he might be most intimidated by his color for he does not appear to know that he is colored.
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Format: Paperback
This is another of James Baldwin's literary triumphs. Here he weaves the deepest hopes, sorrows, fears and desires of the human condition into an unforgettable tapestry. The story centers around an actor named Leo Proudhammer and the choices he made in his life, the results that followed and the people he shared his life with. Here we read about Leo as a youngster growing up in Harlem, his struggles as a young man trying to break into showbiz amidst a multitude of obstacles and his successful rise to stardom. This is a very poignant and tender but, powerful and gripping story that will hold your attention. Also recommended: "Giovanni's Room", "Another Country" and "Going to Meet the Man".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This may be the best book I have ever read. I was so engrossed that I read it very slowly because I didn't want it to end. Baldwin is a genius writer at the highest level. I'm now reading all his novels and story collections.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone still swooning over Baldwin's Another Country. To my disappointment, this book did not have the same complexity, depth, nor energy that Another Country had. I found myself sticking to the book in some hopes that I would reach the same feeling of satisfaction and rapture that I found with Another Country, or Giovanni's Room. Not a complete waste of time, but not Baldwin's best.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
His writing is captivating. I agree with a previous comment that his works should be required reading in school, especially this day in age. So ahead of it's time, that even now it's relevant. Ended abruptly, but only because I didn't want it to end.
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Format: Kindle Edition
James Baldwin has a way of capturing the experience of black (and queer) people in such a captivating and believable way that I sometimes wonder if white people could learn even more from his books than they can from academic texts or political rallies. He also manages to build stories around characters without making their marginalized status the main plot. He is truly one of the greatest writers out there. His anger with the world and his kindness towards those in it shine through in this book.
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