Day 4: The Evidence of Things Not Seen by James Baldwin

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Day 4: The Evidence of Things Not Seen by James Baldwin. I think I’ve read everything by Baldwin and probably about Baldwin as well. His writing edges on excess — it’s always blood on nerve-ends of some kind, with the urgings of a prayer, evoking and arousing feeling. I love his novels (Another Country, Just Above My Head, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone) and his great classic essays (Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, The Devil Finds Work). This short book, originally a long essay for Playgirl on the Atlanta Child murders of the early 80s, made a great impression on me. The title’s from the bible but also evoked the two great hermeneutics of the last century that also deal with the evidence of things not seen: Marxism and Psychoanalysis. The book’s conclusion is  like what Kanye told Bush, ‘American doesn’t give a fuck about black people’ but in this case made more potent by it taking place in Atlanta where a lot of the people were black, and so class becomes a factor: America kills poor poor black people. Much of the outrage was due to so many of the victims being so young. The analysis is brilliant and the writing superb. There’s a moment where he cites a black spiritual, ‘when the woman gets the blues lord, she bows her head and cries; when a man gets the blues lord, he takes the train and rides’: he then goes to explain what it is about America that makes that black man take that train. It’s electric, consciousness-raising writing.

 

José Arroyo

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