THE AMEN CORNER

With the exception of "The Man Child," a macabre, faintly Lawrentian study of repressed love between two white men in the rural South, all of Baldwin's tales here deal in one form or another with the Negro problem. Technically, a good portion of the work is crude and unconvincing. "Come Out the Wilderness" and "Previous Condition," for example, rest on slight themes: the first concerning a Negro girl's hapless involvement with an opportunistic white Village artist, and the second presenting the frustrations of a Negro actor when he is denied lodgings in a white neighborhood. "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" is an ironic mood piece, a chronicle of a Negro expatriate in Paris: on the verge of fame and fearful of returning to the states, the singer discovers that his friend, a Tunisian outcast, is not above stealing from people of his own race. "Sonny's Blues" is an over-long, over-loud lament of a doomed jazz musician who becomes a junkie, ending on a muted moment of recognition between himself and his square brother. "The Rockpile" is a brief , bitter account of children blighted by Harlem family life. The title story is reminiscent of Baldwin's recent play Blues for Mr. Charlie; the white protagonistThe Amen Carner is a much better play than Blues for Mister Charlie, which was Baldwin at his agit-prop worst. Perhaps its superiority is due to the time of composition, right after Baldwin's best novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, with which it has a sibling relation. What we find in Baldwin's early work is an impassioned hurt and poignancy, a lyric openness to his terrible past and the impugned humanity of the Negro, which the headier, later confections like Another Country and the more pamphleteering pages of The Fire Next Time seem to have escalated into a pompous, all-purpose revanchist rhetoric. True, The Amen Corner is old-fashioned, even homey, theatrically speaking: but its central character, the store-front Harlem evangelist, Sister Margaret, a "fiery, fast-talking, little black woman," unexpectedly shattered by the return of a husband she never understood and the disaffection of a son she presumed to understand too well, is a beautiful, moving, and often heart-breaking creation, a figure of real yearnings and consequence rarely placed on the Broadway stage. Unfortunately, The Amen Corner was not a success when it was finally performed here a few seasons ago. Probably the gospel-singing atmosphere, the wonderfully modulated idiomatic speeches, and the genuine sentiments expressed alienated the vogue-hungry New York audiences. The loss is theirs., a deputy sheriff, is momentarily impotent until aroused by a terrible memory: as a boy, he witnessed, along with his gloating parents and other adults, the brutal castration and burning of an uppity Negro. All of these tales have an undeniable urgency, power and anger, yet only "The Outing" achieves true artistry, probably because it is the most personal and not melodramatic at all. Symphonic in structure, mixing religious and sexual motifs, encompassing various shades of characters and situations against the background of a boat trip up the Hudson, "The Outing" is memorable in every sense; funny, sad, colorful, it is a triumphant performance.

Pub Date: June 12, 1967

ISBN: 0375701885

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1967

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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