Cleaver writes well, with remarkable assurance and without most of the mannerisms of a young self-taught writer--much less a young Negro writer, which he is--an ex-Muslim who served time for marijuana and rape, putting out most of Soul on Ice in jail. The essays offer a constellation of discrete insights into black militancy and white society. His general credo: ""The racial problem can no longer be solved in isolation,"" for even if ""Whitey"" wanted to eradicate all evil overnight, the U.S. political economy wouldn't permit it. He discusses pertinent phenomena from New Left and New Right (both ""the spawn of the Negro revolution"") to Cassius Clay (in the context of Negro atheletes' prior roles). His mistakes are fascinating, too, as when he overrates the alienation of young whites. His letters from prison to his lawyer, Beverly Axelrod, will embarrass even sympathetic readers, however; they deal at violently introspective length with black men's craving for white women. All this adds up to some invidious comparisons: memoirs to rival those of Piri Thomas or Claude Brown without their latent self-congratulation; Mailer's iconoclasm without his neo-euphuism; a SNCC indignation talking up, not down, Baldwin's capacity to transcribe experience into social terms (Cleaver criticizes him, but he seems a non-activist spokesman of this decad as as Baldwin was of the last). The book deals with the important things better than 99.4% of the current discussions of race relations. If Cleaver keeps his style under control, his emotional honesty out in front, his intellect on the make, he may end up truly first-rate.