Saturday, November 14, 2020

GOING TO MEET THE MAN


Going To Meet the Man, James Baldwin, Dial Press, 1965, 249 pp

 This was Baldwin's first collection of short stories. Five had been published in magazines between 1948 and 1960. The remaining three were published for the first time in the book. 

From reading the David Leeming biography, I could see that many of them are based on incidents from Baldwin's life or on people he knew.

Each story is as powerful as any of his novels, well-formed and filled with descriptions that feel present and real, as does the emotional content. In fact, I have rarely read short stories as good as these, especially from that time period. 

The final story, which gave the book its title, could be a summarization of Baldwin's views on racism in America. He delves into the legacy of slavery and the complicated sexual connotations between white and black due to the abuse of slaveowners against black female slaves, which often resulted in mixed race children. He distills what could have been a major thesis into 21 pages of searing fiction.

I have long held an aversion to short stories. Do you like to read them? If yes, can you recommend your favorite short story writers? For me, as with poetry, it works to read only one short story a day. I am considering an attempt to write some of my own.

22 comments:

  1. i have yet to read any JB, to my annoyance... even tho i'm tuned into earlier centuries, i should try to keep up, but...

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  2. I think there was a renaissance of short story reading here in Canada when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature. There are actually several other good exponents of this form but probably little known outside of this country.

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    1. I have read a bit of Alice Munro. When it comes to Canadian authors, Margaret Atwood is my top favorite, though I have not read her short stories. Perhaps I should.

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    2. Also, if you have not tried Robertson Davies you are missing out!

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  3. I need to read this. I need to read more Baldwin.

    I theory I have nothing against short stories. I just do not read a lot of them. I am not sure why not. There is so much out there to read!

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    1. There IS so much out there to read!

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  4. I prefer to read a single short story, as opposed to a collection. With a collection, I come out of the book with a mixture of feelings. There's usually always the one or two story that were meh and sometimes they may bring the whole book down. I do love essay collections though.

    I'd like to read some of James Baldwin's works. Maybe a single story or his other fiction.

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    1. That is exactly how I feel about short story collections. Baldwin also wrote essays and there are a couple collections of them.

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  5. I share your general aversion to short stories and seldom read them. I would make an exception for Baldwin.

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    1. I am pretty sure you would not be disappointed if you did!

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  6. I seldom read short stories but in theory have no aversion to them. I have liked Alice Munro's & Tim Winton's short stories Both very good. Baldwin's must be very very good to get you to pick up short stories! I will keep this one in mind.

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    1. So interesting to hear everyone's feelings about short stories! I love Tim Winton's novels so that is a good tip. Baldwin's are very very good and got me curious to compare them with others.

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  7. Sounds like a great read. I have yet to read anything written by Alex Baldwin, but have him on my list of authors to read.

    I was wondering if you'd write a separate blog post about how you've come to start writing, what you're writing about and if you plan to try publishing your writing etc.?

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    1. Baldwin is well worth the time spent reading him.
      https://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-big-fat-reading-project-again.html

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  8. Hello! I dont really fancy short stories but I have enjoyed some anthologies before. I understand that this book must be hard to read but that it is necessary too not to forget any episode of history. Nice post

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  9. I've noticed when it comes to short story collections that I'll enjoy the first one or two stories but then the last few I don't seem to care about and wish the first were longer instead.

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