‘Going to Meet the Man’ by James Baldwin – A Fearless Artist

 

‘Going to Meet the Man’, stories by James Baldwin (1965) – 249 pages

 

I wanted to read more James Baldwin, and I had read a lot of good things about his collection of stories, ‘Going to Meet the Man’. It did not disappoint.

These are deep stories with an acute and often angry understanding of the predicaments of his characters. One theme in each of these powerful stories is our refusal to really know other humans and to accept out differences.

The subjects of these eight stories are wide-ranging, and whatever the subject that James Baldwin takes on, he approaches it with an insightful humane intelligence.

It’s always been like that, people always try to destroy what they don’t understand – and they hate almost everything because they understand so little.”

The early story ‘The Outing’ is about a church outing when the members of the church and a few others take a boat trip up to Bear Mountain where they would spend the day. Since it is a church outing the pastor Father James preaches to those who came along.  Johnnie, the son of the Deacon of the church, is attracted to his male friend David. David is more interested in the girl Sylvia who is an upstanding member of the church than in Johnnie. Neither Johnnie nor David has committed to the church, thus they are both unsaved. Can this almighty God forgive Johnnie’s “sin”?

I found this story to be powerful and caused me to eagerly read the following stories.

These lines from the story “Previous Condition” resonated with me:

Acting’s a rough life, even if you’re white. I’m not tall and I’m not good looking and I can’t sing or dance, and I’m not white; so even at the best of times I wasn’t in much demand.”

Many of the stories confront the racial prejudice which the characters must contend with, being a black person in the United States. There is justifiable anger in the shabby and sometimes much worse treatment these characters face every day. However in the story “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon”, our main protagonist escapes to Paris where racial attitudes are different.

 

In “Sonny’s Blues”, one man finds his escape through music:

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”

‘Going to Meet the Man’ finishes with the devastating title story depicting the lynching of a black man in a small southern US town, told from the harsh view of the white deputy sheriff who is overseeing the proceedings.

There has been a James Baldwin revival lately, and the compelling stories in ‘Going To Meet the Man’ are strong examples of his eloquent insight into daily life.

 

Grade:    A

 

 

4 responses to this post.

  1. I am hoping to read Beale Street this month, it will be my first encounter with Baldwin

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Cathy,
      Of James Baldwin, I have read ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’, ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’, and now this collection of stories. There was a movie of Beale Street a couple of years ago which is supposed to be good, but I haven’t watched it yet.

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      Reply

  2. I read this collection myself a little while back. I thought it extraordinary. Superbly well written. Glad to see it getting some attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Max,
      Great to hear from you. While a lot of the famed 1960s and 1970s writers are falling by the wayside now, James Baldwin’s fame and importance are only increasing, and rightfully so.

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      Reply

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