Three decades of essays, introductions, op-eds, interviews, and other fugitive pieces by the multifaceted Gates (Harvard professor, producer, editor, belletrist, genealogist, filmmaker, cultural critic) are gathered in this diverse and often entertaining collection. Although sometimes marked by “arcane technicalities,” Gates (Colored People) enjoys signifying (loosely defined as “making a point by indirection and wit”), a mode of composition that allows the bookish and the personal to merge; Derrida can be invoked and Gates’s “own first public performance” at age four can be recalled in “The Master’s Pieces,” one of his seminal essays treating canon formation in literature. Gates’s range is broad: assaying the life of West Indians in London and “blackness in Brazil”; chatting with James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Wole Soyinka, and Condoleezza Rice; exploring the DNA heritage of Bliss Broyard and Oprah Winfrey; assessing black theater along the “Chitlin Circuit”; and decoding 2 Live Crew. One of his enduring scholarly contributions is his recovery and assemblage of lost, buried, or scattered works by African-American writers. His introductions to Our Nig and The Bondswoman’s Narrative are particularly valuable, as are several critical essays treating issues of canonicity and the place therein of African-American literature that stimulated provocative intellectual chatter as the works of African-American writers entered the citadels of academia during the late 20th century. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2012 Release date: 05/01/2012 Genre: Nonfiction
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