James Baldwin: Later Novels

James Baldwin: Later Novels
Author: James Baldwin
Publisher: Library of America
Language: English
Pages: 1075
Size: 13 x 20.8 cm
Weight: 716 g
Binding: Softcover
ISBN: 9781598534542
Availability: In stock
Price: €39.95
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Product Description

With such landmark novels as Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room, and the essay collections Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin established himself as the indispensable literary voice of the Civil Rights era, a figure whose prophetic exploration of the racial and sexual fissures in American society challenged and electrified American readers. But by the late 1960s and ’70s many regarded Baldwin as being out of sync with the political and social currents transforming America: too integrationist for the champions of “Black Power” and others on the Left, yet too “pessimistic” for many white readers. As a result his final three novels—Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and Just Above My Head (1979)—have yet to receive the consideration given his earlier fiction. Now, these late novels, carefully annotated to clarify Baldwin’s many musical and other cultural references, are collected for the first time in a single-volume edition, a companion volume to The Library of America’s Early Novels and Stories.

Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, inspired in part by Baldwin’s unhappy experience collaborating with the Actors Studio for the staging of one of his plays, begins with the sudden heart attack of its thirty-nine-year-old protagonist, the celebrated actor Leo Proudhammer, whose rise to fame from impoverished beginnings in Harlem is recounted as he recuperates. Although wholly fictional, it is a profoundly personal work, as Proudhammer’s conflicted assessment of his life and career mirror Baldwin’s own struggles in the mid-1960s. If Beale Street Could Talk, the only Baldwin novel narrated by a woman, is a love story in which a young couple must weather a false accusation of rape and the predatory misconduct of the police. Baldwin’s final novel, the sprawling Just Above My Head, follows the troubled life and tumultuous times of world-famous gospel singer Arthur Montana; here Baldwin’s continued critical engagement with the African American church and with black music, begun decades earlier with Go Tell It on the Mountain, brings his career full circle.

Darryl Pinckney, editor, is the author of the novel High Cotton (1992) and the critical study Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature (2002). He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, among other publications.