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James Baldwin: A Biography par David Leeming
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James Baldwin: A Biography (original 2015; édition 1994)

par David Leeming

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2141105,199 (3.83)8
"The most revealing and subjectively penetrating assessment of Baldwin's life yet published." --The New York Times Book Review. "The first Baldwin biography in which one can recognize the human features of this brilliant, troubled, principled, supremely courageous man." --Boston Globe James Baldwin was one of the great writers of the last century. In works that have become part of the American canon--Go Tell It on a Mountain, Giovanni's Room, Another Country, The Fire Next Time, and The Evidence of Things Not Seen--he explored issues of race and racism in America, class distinction, and sexual difference. A gay, African American writer who was born in Harlem, he found the freedom to express himself living in exile in Paris. When he returned to America to cover the Civil Rights movement, he became an activist and controversial spokesman for the movement, writing books that became bestsellers and made him a celebrity, landing him on the cover of Time. In this biography, David Leeming creates an intimate portrait of a complex, troubled, driven, and brilliant man. He plumbs every aspect of Baldwin's life: his relationships with the unknown and the famous, including painter Beauford Delaney, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, and childhood friend Richard Avedon; his expatriate years in France and Turkey; his gift for compassion and love; the public pressures that overwhelmed his quest for happiness, and his passionate battle for black identity, racial justice, and to "end the racial nightmare and achieve our country."… (plus d'informations)
Membre:galves
Titre:James Baldwin: A Biography
Auteurs:David Leeming
Info:Knopf (1994), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 442 pages
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Mots-clés:Aucun

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James Baldwin: A Biography par David Leeming (2015)

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4. James Baldwin : a Biography by David Adams Leeming
published: 1994
format: 420 page hardcover
acquired: library
read: Jan 1-19
time reading: 18 hr 3 min, 2.6 min/page
rating: 4

I read this to get me excited about reading Baldwin this year and learn more about what kind of person he was. And it did get me excited at first because Baldwin is fascinating. He was that kind of energetic personality that can never settle down. It seems he always felt to the need to be bold, and do something slightly unexpected, and somehow to hover on the edge of some kind of self-destabilization, while at the same time always craving a stability. When he wrote, it was from his life. It seems his personality, boldness and incisive self-analysis provided the power behind his fiction and essays. And, on top of all that, he was black and gay in an electric time and threw himself into the midst of the Civil Rights movement.

It curious because my view of Baldwin isn't as a prominent Civil Right leader, but as curious highbrow writer I didn't know much else about. It's not like I ever thought MLK, Malcolm X and James Baldwin in same formative way. And there was something different about him. He was raised in Harlem, became a preacher at 14 (significantly influencing his writing and speaking styles), but his life led him to a kind of bohemian 1940's Greenwich Village and then to a Paris of expats, hanging out with a more liberal and largely white crowd. He would be mocked as not being black enough, and it seems he was always writing to ear of the liberal white (and very Jewish) crowd. That is to say he was both prominent and on the edge.

(I should note I'm liberal, white and Jewish, so maybe I'm the right kind of reader.)

Leeming met Baldwin in Istanbul in the mid 1960's, at the height of his fame after [The Fire Next time]. He become close with Baldwin and his milieu in Istanbul, and later worked for Baldwin organizing his papers. So, he writes from some intimacy and knowledge about his writing and world, including some anecdotes on their relationship. After he wrote a letter to Baldwin complaining about how his lifestyle was hurting him and his writing, Baldwin wrote him back, where, paraphrased by Leeming, "He declared...I must understand that disorder was in a sense a necessary aspect of his life as a writer. He could not afford to be tamed." He draws a life of Baldwin through a collection of small details, not so much bringing his subject to life as letting the reader construct it from the information. Every book Baldwin published gets a chapter, and every moment in his and his various intimate relationships, many platonic, gets covered. Sometimes chapters end in what practically amount to lists of various people he met while in one city or another. It's treasure trove of compressed information and oddly works to construct this unusual personality. And, of course, it's a little overwhelming. Instead of rushing out to Baldwin's first book, I need a little break to recover.

Recommended to those interested in Baldwin and willing the put in the time this book may take.

2019
https://www.librarything.com/topic/301619#6716843 ( )
2 voter dchaikin | Jan 25, 2019 |
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And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear,...yet shall they know that there hath been a prophet among them.

-Ezekiel 2:5
I ain't good looking, but I'm somebody's angel child.

-Bessie Smith, "Reckless Blues"
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For David
in memory of Jimmy,
Beauford, Bernard, Ellis, Mary, Orilla, Sam,
and all
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"The most revealing and subjectively penetrating assessment of Baldwin's life yet published." --The New York Times Book Review. "The first Baldwin biography in which one can recognize the human features of this brilliant, troubled, principled, supremely courageous man." --Boston Globe James Baldwin was one of the great writers of the last century. In works that have become part of the American canon--Go Tell It on a Mountain, Giovanni's Room, Another Country, The Fire Next Time, and The Evidence of Things Not Seen--he explored issues of race and racism in America, class distinction, and sexual difference. A gay, African American writer who was born in Harlem, he found the freedom to express himself living in exile in Paris. When he returned to America to cover the Civil Rights movement, he became an activist and controversial spokesman for the movement, writing books that became bestsellers and made him a celebrity, landing him on the cover of Time. In this biography, David Leeming creates an intimate portrait of a complex, troubled, driven, and brilliant man. He plumbs every aspect of Baldwin's life: his relationships with the unknown and the famous, including painter Beauford Delaney, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, and childhood friend Richard Avedon; his expatriate years in France and Turkey; his gift for compassion and love; the public pressures that overwhelmed his quest for happiness, and his passionate battle for black identity, racial justice, and to "end the racial nightmare and achieve our country."

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