Saturday, August 21, 2010

LA Times Book Review-James Baldwin's "The Cross of Redemption"

James Baldwin, 1983: LA Times
(Book review by Lynell George for the LA Times)

The Cross of Redemption

Uncollected Writings

James Baldwin, edited by Randall Kenan

Pantheon: 308 pp. $26.95

Not infrequently, James Baldwin found himself quite publicly fielding a deeply presuming question. Though versions varied over time, the rough paraphrase was this: "Was being born black, gay and poor a 'burden'?" Did he ever wonder, "Why me?"

A dynamic, trailblazing presence on erudite TV chat shows as well as a de facto talking head booked to parse the complex territory of the Negro Problem, Baldwin was always ready with the not-so-inscrutable smile, then the ice-water answer: "No. I thought I'd hit the jackpot."

It's typical Baldwin — catching the questioner off-guard, turning the assumption on its head. And while, of course, it is a fine riposte, reexamined it isn't entirely accurate.

We hit the jackpot — all of us — anyone interested in engaging in candid albeit stakes-changing debate, anyone who had an investment in equity, humanity and its future. We gained tremendously from the variegated prism through which he viewed and translated the world.

From the late 1940s until his death in 1987, Baldwinwalked into the very center of the maelstrom — whether it was the rhetorical theater of debate or the very front line of violence of the Jim Crow South — but he wasn't simply everywhere at once: He was deeply invested in each and every outcome.

(Click here to read the full text of Lynell George's brilliant review of James Baldwin on the LA Times website.)

2 comments:

msladydeborah said...

It is a really great review. I hope that this particular publication will spark a major interest in Jimmy's body of written work. People who have not read Baldwin's novels and essays really are missing how intelligent and cutting edge he was as an individual.

Thanks for sharing this information.

Bmc said...

@msladydeborah: A Blessed Sunday to you msladyD, and you are welcome. Baldwin was one of America's greatest novelists and essayists. I am re-reading Richard Wright's "The Outside" and I know Baldwin was influenced by Wright. I agree, I hope this new Baldwin collection really reminds folk how talented and brilliant he was. Thanks for your feedback.