JAMES BALDWIN

A BIOGRAPHY

This fourth life of writer James Baldwin won't give a bad name to authorized biographies, but neither will it elevate the suspect genre to new heights. Leeming (English/Univ. of Connecticut) met Baldwin in 1961. By then, Baldwin was perhaps the best-known and most widely read living black writer in the United States. Their meeting place was Istanbul, where Leeming was teaching and Baldwin was visiting a friend. Although Leeming's presence in this biography is minimal- -even in the Turkish chapters—his professional and social relationship with Baldwin grew rapidly. He was designated authorized biographer and granted access to Baldwin's private papers in 1977, ten years before Baldwin's death at 63. Throughout the text, Leeming seems to struggle with his official status; he slips into the various roles of friend, sycophant, defender, and personal secretary. The alternate references to ``Jimmy'' and the more formal ``Baldwin'' give the book a split personality. Despite this schizophrenic tone, this biography has value as a life chronicle. After all, Leeming saw and heard a great deal that previous Baldwin biographers had no opportunity to see or hear. Leeming deals extensively with Baldwin's precarious (and shifting) place on the racial divide, with his homosexuality, and with the mental instability that led to suicide attempts. Leeming does a workmanlike job of portraying Baldwin's Harlem childhood, the writing of the early books, Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni's Room (among others), the search across the world for a country to call home, and much more. The book is rich in detail but not overly long. Baldwin's life was so inherently fascinating that only a hack could make it dull. Leeming is no hack. But, despite Baldwin's labeling of Leeming as ``my Boswell,'' the biographer is clearly not that, either.

Pub Date: April 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-394-57708-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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