Talking at the Gates: 2a Life of James Baldwin

James Campbell, Author Viking Books $21.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-82913-2
Although Baldwin (1924-1987) ``carried his personal geography with him'' as an expatriate in Paris, he found his true subject in his own difficult personal history. A Holy Roller storefront preacher in Harlem at age 14, the maverick youth who never knew his father's identity carried over per original his oratorical delivery into his writings, channeling the rage that burned beneath his black skin into an investigation of ``the complex racial grief buried in the American soul.'' Yet, according to this marvelously illuminating literary biography, the hallmarks of Baldwin's moral vision--ambivalence, doubt, self-knowledge--faded in later works marred by his ``belligerent idea of the cathartic powers of art.'' In an affectionate yet critical portrait, Campbell, an editor of the Times Literary Supplement and a friend of Baldwin during the last decade of his life, provides new details on the writer's surveillance by the FBI, his fear of assassination, inner turmoil and his relationships with Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Norman Mailer and the Black Panthers. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-14-012395-1
Hardcover - 306 pages - 978-0-571-15391-6
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