Albert Murray’s Symphonic Elegance Sings in a New Anthology

21BOOKMURRAY1-master768-v2Dwight Garner at The New York Times:

“It is always open season on the truth,” the great cultural critic Albert Murray wrote in his first and probably best book, “The Omni-Americans” (1970), “and there never was a time when one had to be white to take a shot at it.”

Murray (1916-2013) took his share of shots in “The Omni-Americans.” He skewered social scientists for pathologizing black life in what he called “this great hit-and-miss republic.” He poured scorn upon black protest writers and certain novelists, including Richard Wright, for insisting on narratives of victimhood and marginalization. Not for him were novels that “read like interim research reports.”

Part of Murray’s genius was for sounding so cheerful in the midst of battle. He’d pause during an extended and elegant argument to toss off a riff like this one (the dated word “meriny” refers to a light skin and hair tone): “If U.S. Negroes don’t already have self-pride and didn’t know black, brown, beige and freckles, and sometimes even m’riny is beautiful, why do they always sound so good, so warm, and even cuss better than everyone else?” Murray, it should be said, was an imaginative swearer himself. Henry Louis Gates Jr. said of his conversation, “Imagine Redd Foxx with a graduate degree in literature.”

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