Baldwin’s prophetic quality is not to be confused, however, with the social activism of those who stand up for a cause.He insists again and again that the role of the artist is not to champion causes but to express his own experience, which is the only thing he knows intimately enough to speak about with any honesty and insight.It was a movie about the German occupation of France, starring Maureen O'Hara and Charles Laughton and called .
The first consists of three critical essays: one about the protest novel, generally, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin specifically; another about Richard Wright’s Native Son, and the last about the film, Carmen Jones.
The second part of the book is the most journalistic and anecdotal.
The story of my childhood is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the restrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again." So begins James Baldwin's autobiographical note to his essay collection came out.
Even so, he told a friend that he thought it was too early in his life for a "memoir." Baldwin wrote elegantly and honestly and passionately about race relations in America, and he did so from a lofty perspective, both self-aware and world-wise.
One of his challenges was to define what it meant to be a "native son": I know, in any case, that the most crucial time in my own development came when I was forced to recognize that I was a kind of bastard of the West; when I followed the line of my past I did not find myself in Europe but in Africa.
And this meant that in some subtle way, in a really profound way, I brought to Shakespeare, Bach, Rembrandt, to the stones of Paris, to the cathedral at Chartres, and to the Empire State Building, a special attitude. Something like this, anyway, has something to do with my beginnings.
after such a long time is how "current" Baldwin is.
That might sound like a cliche, but in so many instances in our lives we learn that some cliches are built on things solid and familiar and timeless.
Even when he describes the awfulness of being black in America, he presents us with an optimism that is sometimes like subtle background music, and sometimes like an insistent drumbeat.
But through it all, with each word—perhaps as evidence of a man certain of his message—he never shouts.