TELL ME HOW LONG THE TRAIN'S BEEN GONE by James Baldwin

TELL ME HOW LONG THE TRAIN'S BEEN GONE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Train's been gone some time. While Baldwin, over a past decade, has pixied into vascular self-contemplation, a new breed of lions has taken over the delineation of black identity, and this is obviously Baldwin struggling to find his place in line. The artist at bay here is named Leo Proudhammer (a witticism which promises much), and this is his background for a breakdown--a massive heart attack suffered in middle age at the height of his stage career. The suffering and white-imposed degradation of a Harlem boyhood is a reliable witness; but the years of slithering among the fixed positions of the white theatrical world, and years of being friend, confidant, lover and co-worker of actress Barbara (herself a cop-out from white-plantation-Kentucky familial ties) continuously accented loneliness, the demands, yet impossibility of love and commitment. Echoing his early incestuous love for older brother Caleb, who was broken into the safe harbor of religion by white treachery, Proudhammer, the successful artist, loves the young black militant Christopher, one who refuses, just for the sake of being alive, to avoid the inevitable race destruction. Loving and living offer only new closed doors. Part I, dealing with outraged childhood has a remembered validity; Part II--amatory theatrics and theatrical amours--in which Barbara and Leo chop away at just what the other is saying, is meaning. . . and well they might. Part III, "Black Christopher" exposes a nerve. On the Latter Day locomotive, a soporific toot.
Pub Date: June 3rd, 1968
ISBN: 0375701893
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1968




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