cover image Baldwin: Collected Essays: One of Two Volume Collection

Baldwin: Collected Essays: One of Two Volume Collection

James A. Baldwin. Library of America, $35 (869pp) ISBN 978-1-883011-52-9

Baldwin's impassioned essays have been at least as influential as his novels in exposing the racial polarization of American society. This massive compilation reproduces in their entirety his early essay collections--Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), The Fire Next Time (1963)--as well as his later, less successful book-length essays--the pessimistic, doom-laden No Name in the Street (1972) and The Devil Finds Work (1976), a semi-autobiographical gloss on American movies. The book charts his trajectory from eloquent voice of the civil rights movement to disillusioned expatriate increasingly prone to grandiloquence and angry rhetoric. Also included is a miscellany of 36 articles, polemics and reviews, 26 of which were previously collected in The Price of the Ticket (1985), published just two years before Baldwin's death from cancer in France at age 63. Novelist Morrison's editing of this omnibus, which includes a chronology and notes, should help rekindle interest in Baldwin, whose recurrent themes--the African American search for identity, the hypocrisy of white America, the urgent necessity for love--make his work timely and challenging. BOMC and Reader's Subscription selections. (Feb.)