James Baldwin Collected Essays

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LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America's best and most significant writing. "One writes," he stated, "out of one thing only--one's own experience.

The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." With singular eloquence and unblinking sharpness of observation he lived up to his credo: "I want to be an honest man and a good writer." The classic The Fire Next Time (1963), perhaps the most influential of his writings, is his most penetrating analysis of America's racial divide and an impassioned call to "end the racial change the history of the world." The later volumes No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976) chart his continuing response to the social and political turbulence of his era and include his remarkable works of film criticism.

I had never seen an image of a black boy like me—Baldwin looked as if he could have been posing in my old neighborhood, in East New York—gracing anything as impressive as a collection of essays.

In fact, shortly after Owen gave me the book I began to pretend that the photograph of Baldwin was of me, or the writer I meant to be, and that the book’s contents were my spiritual autobiography, or a record of the life I longed to lead.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing.

The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries. James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters.James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters.His brilliant and provocative essays made him the literary voice of the Civil Rights Era, and they continue to speak with powerful urgency to us today, whether in the swirling debate over the Black Lives Matter movement or in the words of Raoul Peck's documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." Edited by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Library of America's Collected Essays is the most comprehensive gathering of Baldwin's nonfiction ever published.Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." With singular eloquence and unblinking sharpness of observation he lived up to his credo: "I want to be an honest man and a good writer."The classic The Fire Next Time (1963), perhaps the most influential of his writings, is his most penetrating analysis of America's racial divide and an impassioned call to "end the racial nightmare..change the history of the world." The later volumes No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976) chart his continuing response to the social and political turbulence of his era and include his remarkable works of film criticism.A further 36 essays—nine of them previously uncollected—include some of Baldwin's earliest published writings, as well as revealing later insights into the language of Shakespeare, the poetry of Langston Hughes, and the music of Earl Hines.In the book, there was Baldwin in Paris attending a conference at the Sorbonne, Baldwin in Sweden interviewing Ingmar Bergman, Baldwin grappling with the exigencies of the life of the writer.And there was Baldwin realizing that, no matter how hard he had tried to separate himself from that black boy picking his way through the rubble of Harlem, he would always be regarded by some as a “nigger.”I didn’t believe that I was a nigger, but I was certainly viewed with contempt by friends and family whenever my differences—which took the form of reading and writing, and hanging out with boys who called one another “girlfriend”—declared themselves.During the following year, I spent many hours in the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, hunched over bound volumes of old magazines featuring stories about Baldwin.I was struck, in some photographs, by his enormous eyes, like dark poppies in bloom, raised in mock or serious consternation; in others, by his enormous grin, with the “liar’s space” between the two front teeth.Combining politics, prophecy, and passion, Baldwin's essays are truly as thought-provoking today as they were some 30 years ago. "One writes," he stated, "out of one thing only--one's own experience. James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters.About the Author: With the novel Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), a distillation of his own experiences as a preacher’s son in 1930s Harlem, and the essay collection Notes of a Native Son (1955), James Baldwin (1924-1987) established himself as a prophetic voice of his era. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." With singular eloquence and unblinking sharpness of observation he lived up to his credo: "I want to be an honest man and a good writer." The classic The Fire Next Time (1963), perhaps the most influential of his writings, is his most penetrating analysis of America's racial divide and an impassioned call to "end the racial change the history of the world." The later volumes No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976) chart his continuing response to the social and political turbulence of his era and include his remarkable works of film criticism. His brilliant and provocative essays made him the literary voice of the Civil Rights Era, and they continue to speak with powerful urgency to us today, whether in the swirling debate over the Black Lives Matter movement or in the words of Raoul Peck's documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." Edited by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Library of America's Collected Essays is the most comprehensive gathering of Baldwin's nonfiction ever published.

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