James Baldwin: Collected Essays
By James Baldwin
“With burning passion and jabbing, epigrammatic acuity, Baldwin fearlessly articulates issues of race, democracy, and American identity.”
James Baldwin is an indisputably vital voice in American letters — and one I must admit I’ve never read.
This Library of America edition, edited by Toni Morrison, contains a massive collection of Baldwin’s landmark nonfiction works: Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, The Devil Finds Work, plus various other essays.
These essays contain thoughts on autobiography, observation, commentary, race and identity, America, creativity and more. It’s impressive not only how much is here, but how much is relevant, even necessary, today. Baldwin’s impact resonates; I’ve only recently come to realize how loudly. It feels like an obligation, a sort of moral duty, to read him.
Of note: there are two other volumes in this Library of America set of Baldwin’s work; the others contain his collected novels and stories, a whole other side to his writing. I’m glad these LOA editions exist — authoritative texts, and ones funded so as to never go out of print.
Fierce, unyielding, iconoclastic, penetrating, lyrical, wise: these are my impressions of Baldwin’s gifts, his legacy, the depth of his work.