I've been tearing the house apart for the last thirty minutes or so, looking for my copy of James Baldwin's short story, "Going to Meet the Man,." To call it a harrowing and explicit examination of the mingling of racism and ignorance, sexuality and violence in the mid-60's south is an understatement. It was brutal, but somehow beautiful, too. I wish I could find my copy so I could give you some examples of how elegantly mesmerizing he could be while describing the most savage and sadistic depths of humanity.
I've been thinking about that story ever since I realized that today would've been Baldwin's 87th birthday. I didn't know much about him before the story was assigned in an identity class, and I'll shamefully admit here that I've not read much else of his. That'll change shortly, however. Funny, I've been floundering a bit lately with my reading; I just haven't really found a writer that I can get excited about. Sure, I've read some great stories here and there, but I really need a writer who will provide me with endless hours of obsessive and compulsive reading; I need a writer to keep me company. Someone to latch on to, like the desperate literary spinster I am. Basically, I need a good literary boyfriend. Past romances include the oft-mentioned Hemon, William Faulkner, JD Salinger, Joanna Scott and WG Sebald. I had a minor fling with Chang-Rae Lee a few years ago, too. I tried hanging out with Barry Hannah after reading "Testimony of Pilot," but either he or his protagonists don't care much for women. And even if it's the latter rather than the former, I'm still not interested in reading stories that are just chock full o' misogyny. Bolano is great, but...wow. He's a commitment--I mean the man's been dead nearly a decade and he's published more since than most writer's who are still breathing.
So, what say any of you? Baldwin? Should I give him a shot? "Going to Meet the Man" was definitely impressive; I know that in some circles he's lauded for his non-fiction over his fiction, but I'm not exclusive. I think I could get into a good bildungsroman, I think.
Any other suggestions?
PS: I'm going to find that story and talk about it one of these days. Promise.