Catching Up To James Baldwin

The wonderful writer Darryl Pinckney leads off his essay in the New York Review: ‘Writing about The Fire Next Time in the first issue of this paper in 1963, F. W. Dupee said that James Baldwin, at his best, illuminated not just a book or an author or an age, but a strain in the culture. However, in The Fire Next Time, with its incendiary title, he thought that Baldwin had

given up analysis for exhortation, criticism for prophecy. Dupee regretted Baldwin’s sweeping generalities—that white people do not believe in death, for instance, or that white people are intimidated by black skin. Yet Baldwin impressed him as “the Negro in extremis, a virtuoso of ethnic suffering, defiance, and aspiration,” which at this distance, even as praise, begins to sound a little weird.’

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