THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MALCOLM X by Peter Goldman

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MALCOLM X

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An ambitious study, focusing on the post-Black Muslim Malcolm X, which relies on a great deal of legwork among Malcolm's friends and associates. Some of the author's emphases will be unwelcome to black militants and other bearers of what Goldman calls the ""legend."" But Goldman, a Newsweek editor, is a sympathetic biographer and, tendentiousness apart, his emphases must be reckoned with. They include Malcolm's hope for acceptance by and cooperation with the civil-rights ""respectables""; a perseverance in the clergyman role and, at the end, a putative turn toward the most orthodox form of Islam (not, as some writers insist, toward Marxism); the frailty of his organizational apparatus at the end and his own overwhelming anxiety; and, something Goldman gives an almost cynical twist to, Malcolm X's alleged sense ""that his contribution was precisely to be an 'extremist' -- to do his thing so it would be easier for the established leaders to do theirs."" There is an elaborate reconstruction of the break with Elijah Muhammad, underlining Malcolm's reluctance to go through with it, and an extensive investigation of the assassination -- Goldman concludes by discrediting the ""CIA conspiracy"" theory. Malcolm X's courage, intellectual growth, and personal magnetism are duly praised, but perhaps Goldman fails to give sufficient political weight to the incorruptibility, independence from government-foundation ties, and appeal to the ghetto masses which distinguished him from other black spokesmen -- and, rhetoric apart, made him feared by the Establishment. What the book does convey is a certain sense of strategic uncertainty following the break with the Muslims, a sound and important dimension. Not a brilliant or comprehensive biography -- the definitive Malcolm X awaits a more deft hand; but the book's balanced treatment of a controversial black leader assures wide critical attention from all quarters.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Harper & Row