Facts About Writer James Baldwin | Mental Floss
James Baldwin, born in Harlem, New York, on August 2, 1924, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Baldwin worked in a variety of mediums; he was a novelist as well as an essayist and playwright whose work largely focused on issues of race, class, and sexuality in the mid-1900s.
In 1948, at the age of 24, a practically penniless Baldwin moved to Paris in order to distance himself from the sectarianism he encountered and confronted in America. Five years later, he published his first novel, Go say it on the mountain, a semi-autobiographical story about a Harlem teenager who grew up in the 1930s and the sometimes difficult relationship he has with his family and the church.
Even if you’ve read all of his work, there are still things you might not know about James Baldwin.
1. James Baldwin was a teenage preacher.
Baldwin’s mother, Emma Jones, never told him about his biological father. He was raised by his stepfather, a Baptist minister named David Baldwin, but their relationship was strained. One thing the two had in common, at least for a few years, was a commitment to religion.
In his essay “Letter from an Area in My Mind,” Baldwin wrote about the experience of a “protracted religious crisis” and how “I had, during my fourteenth year, for the first time. times in my life, fear — fear of the evil in me. and fear of evil outside. He wrote:
“My youth quickly made me a much bigger card than my father. I pushed this advantage mercilessly, as it was the most effective way I had found to break its hold on me. It was the scariest time of my life, and quite the most dishonest, and the resulting hysteria lent great passion to my sermons for some time. It had to be recognized, after all, that I was still a schoolboy, with my homework to do, and that I also had to prepare at least one sermon per week. . This meant that there were hours and even entire days when I couldn’t be interrupted, not even by my father. I had immobilized him. no matter.”
2. The American Renaissance painter from Harlem, Beauford Delaney, was James Baldwin’s mentor.
When Baldwin was only 15, he met the American painter Beauford Delaney, whom he quickly considered both a great friend and a mentor. Baldwin also found some sort of father figure in the artist and often referred to Delaney as his “spiritual father”. He described Delaney as “the first living proof, for me, that a black man could be an artist.”
3. James Baldwin was instrumental in the publication of Maya Angelou’s debut novel.
James Baldwin and Maya Angelou have shared a special relationship. One night, Baldwin brought Angelou to a party at the house in New York City of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer and his wife, Judy. At one point in the evening, many guests started to share stories about their childhood and Judy was particularly moved by Angelou’s story.
Judy shared Angelou’s story with Random House editor-in-chief Robert Loomis and urged him to ask Angelou to write a book, but Angelou refused, claiming she had written poems and plays, not books. Loomis called on Angelou several times, but each time she refused. So on his fourth attempt to get him to say yes, the now very determined Loomis took a different approach.
“It’s also good that you don’t try to write an autobiography, because writing an autobiography as literature is almost impossible,” Loomis said. This challenge piqued Angelou’s interest: “Maybe I’ll try it,” she replied. The result was 1969 I know why the caged bird is singing.
4. James Baldwin abandoned America after the suicide of his best friend.
In a 1948 interview with The Parisian reviewBaldwin spoke of the reasons he left America in 1948. “My luck was running out,” Baldwin said. “I was going to go to jail, I was going to kill someone or be killed. My best friend had committed suicide two years earlier.”
In the same interview, Baldwin spoke about the reasons for his choice to live in France. “It was not so much about choosing France,” he said. “It was about getting out of America. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me in France, but I knew what was going to happen to me in New York. If I had stayed there, I would have gone under. , like my friend.
5. James Baldwin worked as a film critic.
Although he is best known for his novels, Baldwin also wrote reviews. In his essay “The Devil Finds Work”, he wrote about American cinema in the same way he wrote his novels, and was particularly interested in what the cinema had to say about race.
While discussing The Exorcist, Baldwin wrote: “The senseless and hysterical banality of evil presented in The Exorcist is the most terrifying thing in the movie. Americans should certainly know more about evil than that; if they claim otherwise, they are lying, and any black man, and not just blacks – many, many more, including white children – can call them on that lie, whoever has been treated like the devil admits the devil when they meet. “