James Baldwin burst onto the literary scene with his powerful novel Go Tell It On The Mountain, and he remained a major force in American letters for decades, viewed both as a noted intellectual and as one of the most incisive writers to deal with race relations in American history. Baldwin’s insight into the lives of “outsiders” was triply sharp, as he was black, gay and an expatriate living in Europe.
A self-taught writer who studied the long, languid sentences of Henry James, Baldwin’s most brilliant writing can be found in his essays, of which he wrote many. Though his range is not as wide as, say, Emerson or Gore Vidal, line for line, pound for pound, Baldwin may be the greatest essayist this country ever produced. His sentences twist and turn, curling around and around, breaking your heart with their clarity, honesty and their sensuous rhythm.
Today, many of those once considered the “Great African American Writer” have been forgotten or relegated to discussion only within the context of high school classrooms. In Baldwin’s case, this is a sad loss, for he remains one of the most outspoken and exceptional voices to have ever written about America.
James Baldwin Books To Read:
Go Tell It On The Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, The Cross of Redemption
James Baldwin Links:
New York Times James Baldwin Interview
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