Multifaceted James Baldwin

P5_Cran_1193357mRona Cran at the Times Literary Supplement:

Shortly before James Baldwin’s death in December 1987, Quincy Troupe travelled to his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, near Nice, to interview him. The result, first printed in James Baldwin: The legacy (1989) and now reissued as part of Melville House’s “Last Interview” series – together with previously published interviews with Baldwin by Julian Lester (from the New York Times Book Review, 1984), Richard Goldstein (the Village Voice, 1984), and the transcript of a 1961 radio conversation with Studs Terkel in Chicago – is characteristically wide-ranging. In spite of Baldwin’s deteriorating health, Troupe caught him at his articulate, acerbic, ardent best. The conversation touches on subjects as diverse as Norman Mailer’s decision “to be a celebrity” rather than a writer, Baldwin’s refusal “to wash myself clean for the American literary academy”, the need to do “great violence to the assumptions on which [American] vocabulary is based”, and the “certain distinctive juju” that Troupe felt Baldwin and Miles Davis shared (Troupe was at the time co-writing Miles: The autobiography, 1990).

In the course of the discussion, Baldwin remarks: “It’s difficult to be a legend. It’s hard for me to recognize me”. Few writers have so unequivocally resisted the terms under which they have been defined.

more here.