Calling James Baldwin
I want to talk about James Baldwin, and not because it’s Black History Month, though it is indeed that. I want to talk about Baldwin because he was part of the canon I studied when I began writing seriously: the power of his language, the directness, the exactness. Baldwin taught me what it meant to cut open a vein and let the words bleed onto the page, which where all the best writing comes from.
I caught a snippet of Baldwin on film in Paris today — I will drop it here if I can find it — and I have been thinking about it ever since.
Thirty years later, I’m still absorbing new truths in his words.
Take a moment, please, and read this 1968 Esquire interview to understand what I mean.
I don’t want to talk about the news. And I practically shrieked when I saw the numbers today, but it’s not as bad as all that.
- The state reports 12,079 new cases today, which is absolutely outrageous. But wait! A note explains that 7,912 of them were December 2020 and January 2021 totals from FastMed Urgent Care, which delayed reporting. So really, it was just 4,167 today, which is still a lot more than yesterday. 776,307 total, 9,578 deaths (+169, largest one-day total yet).
- 14.0 positive test rate, skewed no doubt by those lazy bastards at FastMed.
- It’s hard for me to understand why things are so bad in Guilford County, where I live: 661 new cases today, a lot, 34,408 total.Fifteen new deaths for 406.
- Forsyth added 500 today, also regrettable, for 28,501. 283 deaths (+2).
Here’s Baldwin in 1965 debating William F. Buckley at Cambridge University: “Is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro?” Worth your time.
- How about a van Gogh? Here’s “First Steps, after Millet,” which he painted 21 times while at the asylum. He used a photo from his brother as a reference for this one. Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s public-domain collection.
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