THE PRICE OF THE TICKET

COLLECTED NONFICTION 1948-1985

Perhaps only a young black writer as prickly as the early Baldwin himself should review this, though at first it seems unreviewable by a black of any age, since Baldwin begins by rejecting blackness or negritude itself as a self-defeating, even strangling self-categorization. His strategy from the start has been to paint himself ever more tightly into a comer defined by everything he rejects (at one time or another, just about everything). With the sole exception of his 1985 book on the Atlanta child murders, this volume brings together every piece of nonfiction, short and long, that Baldwin wishes to save. It is a stunning achievement, violently personal, gifted, distilled from a lifelong mediation on race, sometimes less intelligent than given to big generalizations and intellectual grandiosity, yet ever a whiplash on the national conscience, if steadily remote in its fury. Baldwin opens with a new essay, "The Price of the Ticket," describing his early days as a reviewer-essayist for highbrow leftist periodicals, then summarizes his feelings about the total racism of current American institutions: "Leaving aside my friends, the people I love, who cannot, usefully, be described as either black or white, they are, like life itself, thank God, many many colors, I do not feel, alas, that my country has any reason for self-congratulation"—a sentence, alas, that is a Baldwinian jumble. His early essays often find him straining for destructive criticism: it is Baldwin, after all, who sees the black in white America and the white in black America so clearly blended that he can tell us there is no white America. One of his best reviews is of Ross Lockridge's celebration of America in the mythic Raintree County. "The book, which had no core to begin with, becomes as amorphous as cotton candy under the drumming flows of words. . .words. . .Mr. Lockridge uses. . .as a kind of shimmering web, hiding everything with an insistent radiance and proving that, after all, everything is, or is going to be, all right. . Raintree County, according to its author, cannot be found on any map: and it is always summer there. He might also have added that no one lives there anymore." Here also are Baldwin's searing introduction of white America to Malcolm X and Harlem's black Muslims (The Fire Next Time) in which he finds black racism as misguided as the white devils it attacks; his shadowboxing with Norman Mailer; his attack on the protest novel, from Uncle Tom's Cabin to Native Son (which angered his friend Richard Wright) and marvelous deflation of, among others, Carmen Jones, Porgy and Bess and The Birth of a Nation for misrepresenting the black experience. Most moving of all is his autobiographical tour of his blackness No Name on the Street: "To be an Afro-American, or an American black, is to be in the situation, intolerably exaggerated, of all those who have never found themselves part of a civilization they could in no wise honorably defend—which they were compelled, indeed, endlessly to attack and condemn—and who yet spoke out of the most passionate love, hoping to make the kingdom new. . .

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1985

ISBN: 0312643063

Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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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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