At once a powerful evocation of his early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice to both the individual and the body politic, James Baldwin galvanized the nation in the early days of the civil-rights movement with this eloquent manifesto. The Fire Next Time stands as one of the essential works of our literature.
"Searing...brilliant...masterful." (The New York Times) "One of the few genuinely indispensable American writers." (Saturday Review "Anguished...stabbing...a final plea and warning...to end the racial nightmare." (Newsweek)
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If we -- an now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others-- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophesy, re-created from the Bible in a song by a slave, is upon us:
"God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!"
- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
I just couldn't watch the second GOP debates tonight. I knew I couldn't face the Donald and his band of equally exquisite misfits. I'm not exactly in love with the Democrats either, but the GOP clown car is just too long, too tiring, too damn depressing. So I turned my TV off, tuned out, and read me some James Baldwin.
You could say Ta-Nehisi Coates brought me here (after reading Between the World and Me). Or perhaps, it has been these last couple years of official violence directed at the poor and the black in many of our biggest cities (St Louis, Baltimore, Las Angeles, New York). Or perhaps, I could also say that Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain also brought me here. Perhaps, it was reading the Old Testament with my own teenage children that pushed me in this direction. Or perhaps, even the promise of the New Testament. Maybe, it was my despair over the way that 14-year-old Muslim boy was treated with his homemade clock. I needed tonight a poetic healing and a spiritual justice. An Old Testament warning with a New Testament salve and a black rhythm. I needed James Baldwin's force, his poetry, his humanist hope, his infinitely quotable words. God, his prose is poetic. I literally ran out of post-it notes as I read this 106 page thesis, laid at the feet of his namesake nephew.
God this book was beginning to end sad and moving and powerful and beautiful; and so now writing this and glancing at the highlights (lowlights) of the GOP debates, I can securely say, I made the right damn choice tonight.
- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"
Still as bold as ever
Written almost 50 years ago during the Civil Rights era, these two works (a letter and an essay) give the 21st Century listener a solid no-holds barred picture of a black man's life as lived in apartheid America.
At the very least, Baldwin's writing must be commended for its bold directness, its brutal honesty, its elegant articulation and its timely significance. This was worth listening to and I enjoyed Jesse Martin's persuasive narration.