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Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin
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Going to Meet the Man (1965)

by James Baldwin

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Simply an outstanding short story collection. Story after story, I kept saying to myself, "Oh, yes, that's very, very true! I never thought of it that way before!" Even the single story that I thought was bordering on mundane, by my standards, had those very same "Ah, hah!" moments. But as good as everything before it was, nothing quite prepares you for the power of the collection's title story, "Going to Meet the Man". If all the stories before it were like a friend gently poking their finger on your chest, to make a point, then "Going to Meet the Man" is an electric cattle prod jammed against your heart and held there. Take all the black civil rights books you've ever read. Distill them into a few brief pages. Add a drop of nitro glycerin for good measure, and then lean back and read. But, while this story specifically covers racial tensions in America, it easily goes further in describing any of all the societal hatreds, whether it be blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants, Aryans and Jews, Sunnis and Shiites, or any other Us-In-Control versus Them-That-Are-Different dynamic. Powerful, powerful stuff. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
James Baldwin wrote about things that matter. These stories address parental cruelty, religious fervor (and the point where the two meet), and racism. He saves some of his best writing for racism and the effect it has on people. “Previous Condition” is a biting look at that issue. In “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon” a black singer self-exiled to Paris is dreading a return to America for the first time in eight years.

Baldwin surprises in “Sonny’s Blues” by writing about jazz with clarity and vigor. “While the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard.” Baldwin’s writing does that here. ( )
1 vote Hagelstein | Jul 15, 2017 |
Whoa. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Apr 9, 2017 |
there are 8 longish short stories in this collection (most are 20 pages and one is almost 50) and all are what you'd expect of baldwin. amazing writing, talking about race, religion, gender, place, and all with depth and his way of cutting down to the truth of the issue. and his way of getting at these issues from all sides, in a way that no one else i've ever read or heard speak can do.

the first two stories are about the same family that is from his book go tell it on the mountain. my main complaint (if you can even call it that) about this book is that the characters don't seem true to their novel depictions, at least in the second story featuring them. it would have been a perfect story if the names were changed and i didn't come in with knowledge of these people already. (a knowledge that is skewed because i don't remember all the specifics from my reading of that book.)

my only other concrete "complaint" about these stories is that he uses many of the same names from story to story as well as names from his books, and after he started his stories with characters from a book of his, i spent too much time and energy trying to figure out if this eric is the eric from another country or if this paul is the same paul as from the previous story, etc.

but the content of the stories is great. i didn't love all of them but i liked them all very much and there were a couple that were doozies - notably the title story (and last in the collection), sonny's blues, and ... no, they're all really good. going to meet the man packs a different punch than the rest (and that i'm used to) and so stands out, but they're all great stories.

i love what he has to say and i love how he says it.

"...and I wondered if I trusted them; if I was able any longer to trust anybody. Not on top, where all the world could see, but underneath where everybody lives."

"I couldn't believe it: but what I mean by that is that I couldn't find any room for it anywhere inside me."

"All the white people she has ever met needed, in one way or another, to be reassured, consoled, to have their consciences pricked but not blasted; could not, could not afford to hear a truth which would shatter, irrevocably, their images of themselves." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Jun 17, 2014 |
Kara Baker
Book Reviews
EDCI 4120/5120
Summer, 2008

CITATION: Baldwin, J. (1995). Going to Meet the Man. New York: Vintage International

GRADE LEVELS: 9-12

CATEGORY: Short Stories: Afro-American, Jazz, New York

READ-ALOUDS: pp 13-25 “The Rockpile,” pp101- 141 “Sonny’s Blues”

SUMMARY: Interconnected short stories that tell the life of a young Afro-American in the twentieth century.

THEMES: The themes included in this book are minority life, Life in New York City, the effect of music on the soul, and growing up.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1. Which story is most like your life? Why?
2. Can you relate to the protagonist in the stories? How? What similarities are there between you and him? What differences are there?
3. Did you ever have an experience like what happens in “The Rockpile?” How did your parents react?

READER RESPONSE: The short stories in this book are often harsh and biting. The reality delivered is not pleasant, and the stories often have “unhappy” endings. The book is very well written and presents a realistic non-sugarcoated view of Baldwin’s young life. I liked the book for its writing and for the descriptions of life in the City. ( )
  karakbaker | Jun 12, 2008 |
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for Beauford Delaney
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THE ROCKPILE

Across the street from their house, in an empty lot between two houses, stood the rockpile.
Quotations
All I know about music is that not many people really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours. I just watched Sonny's face. (Sonny's Blues)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679761799, Paperback)

"There's no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it." The men and women in these eight short fictions grasp this truth on an elemental level, and their stories, as told by James Baldwin, detail the ingenious and often desperate ways in which they try to keep their head above water. It may be the heroin that a down-and-out jazz pianist uses to face the terror of pouring his life into an inanimate instrument. It may be the brittle piety of a father who can never forgive his son for his illegitimacy. Or it may be the screen of bigotry that a redneck deputy has raised to blunt the awful childhood memory of the day his parents took him to watch a black man being murdered by a gleeful mob.

By turns haunting, heartbreaking, and horrifying--and informed throughout by Baldwin's uncanny knowledge of the wounds racism has left in both its victims and its perpetrators--Going to Meet the Man is a major work by one of our most important writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Contains eight short fiction stories about men and women who are struggling in their own ways to survive the traumas of life.

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