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Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
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Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,202 ratings  ·  61 reviews
At the height of his theatrical career, the actor Leo Proudhammer is nearly felled by a heart attack. As he hovers between life and death, Baldwin shows the choices that have made him enviably famous and terrifyingly vulnerable.



For between Leo's childhood on the streets of Harlem and his arrival into the intoxicating world of the theater lies a wilderness of desire and lo...more
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 484 pages
Published 1968 by Dial Press
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Curtis Ackie
Baldwin once said "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read." And this sentiment is certainly what I felt whilst reading this wonderful novel. At times it was eerie how well I could relate to it.
Eric
Baldwin, for me, is one of those writers who defines what their art is about. He is able to address a range of themes and emotions in a clear, unfussy style that makes his stories both a joy to behold and an experience to share. His characters live and breathe in ways to which we can all relate, and exist in worlds we recognise. It is this authenticity of description and experience that allows you to become so involved and invested in the stories and the journeys of his characters. That there is...more
Kat
The back of this book makes it out to be the life story of a black actor who rises to greatness, but is "torn between two different kinds of love". I don't think Baldwin makes as big a deal as all that about the fact that the character, Leo, has one lover who is a woman his age and one who is a man much younger than he is. The woman, Barbara, is white and that is a big deal. But that doesn't affect their feelings about each other nearly as much as it affects their ability to be together in socie...more
Son Lam
“Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone” by James Baldwin tells the story of Leo Proudhammer, a successful African American actor who grew up in Harlem. The book is set in no one place, but rather is a retelling of Proudhammer’s life, from his childhood in the ghettos of Harlem to the bright city stages. Growing up in Harlem with his small family, Proudhammer became inspired by the movies he frequently watches, and decides to become an actor. He works hard, moving from city to city, dancing wit...more
Chalida
Not my favorite James Baldwin, but still highly engaging. Engaging enough to read all 484 pages in 8 days during the school year. They publishers market this book with Leo Proudhammer's two love affairs, one with a white woman and the other with a younger, gay Black man post WW2. The latter isn't mentioned until the last 30 pages. The former love affair left out too many details. I appreciated Proudhammer's strong sense of identity, never seeming to doubt himself nor whom he loved as a Black, bi...more
Liz
I picked up this book after a long period of reading either non-fiction or science fiction and fantasy. Its safe to say that i have fallen deeply in love with James Baldwin and I have been brought back safely to novel-land. In this lesser known work, Baldwin demonstrates his skillful use language, and his deep understanding of the human condition in the racist, sexist, heteronormative, capitalist United States. This book will truly move your heart and mind, and push you grapple with your own con...more
Lia
I read the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics edition of this book and I would be happy to classify it as a "great American novel". It's beautifully and powerfully written, if a little slow at the start, and the protagonist, Leo Proudhammer, is a thoughtful, sympathetic and engaging character, as are most of the supporting cast. I think it has pretty broad appeal as the story of someone trying to make it against the odds. But it's also what the internet calls "relevant to my interests", in a hug...more
علی
اغلب شخصیت های جیمز بالدوین، از جمعیت سیاهان آمریکا معروف به "آفریقایی – آمریکایی" هستند، و بنا بر دوران زندگی بالدوین در نیمه ی اول قرن بیستم، سرشار از موضوعات نژادی، مذهبی، سیاسی و درگیری های میان سیاه و سفید در جامعه ی آمریکا هستند. از این لحاظ می توان آثار بالدوین را با "اثول فوگارد" نویسنده ی آفریقای جنوبی مقایسه کرد.
لئو یک هنرپیشه ی سیاه که در هارلم بزرگ شده، روی صحنه دچار حمله ی قلبی می شود. این حادثه سبب می شود تا وقایع زندگی لئو بصورت بازگشت به گذشته، روایت شود. باربارا، زنی سفیدپوست ک...more
Andrea
Not as awesome as your average Baldwin fare, but when your average hovers within the "astoundingly prophetic work of piercing literary genius" range, I guess you can afford to strike below the mark every now and again. Baldwin is my all-time no-contest forever-favorite American novelist, so I'm compelled to read everything he wrote (and probably biased in my assessments), and even though "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone" doesn't approach the structural perfection of "Another Country," the...more
Sarah
I really loved this book. Few writers have the capacity to make me fall in love, and to break my heart, and Baldwin does it best. A beautiful story, structured like a series of memories during a turning point in a man's life. The memories jump forward and back in time, as memories do, but not too drastically, and they are treated with that sort of painful, bittersweet nostalgia that one feels when looking back at those defining moments in one's life. The moments of regret and warmth, the fights...more
Virginia Baker
Once again James Baldwin has blown my mind. Some authors are very tedious when addressing the race issue in our country, but Baldwin explores it from a different angle in each of his books. This book dives into the religious aspects that are apparent in Go Tell It On The Mountain and the interracial relationships that are clear in Another Country and the homosexual relationships that are present in Giovanni's Room. He is able to blend everything together in this book to depict the life of Leo Pr...more
Annie
I expected so much more from Baldwin. I think this one crumbled under the weight of trying to tackle sexuality, incest, racism, poverty, and institutionalization all at once.

And such a promising title.
M.R. Dowsing
This is about a famous black actor looking back on his years of struggle whilst recuperating from a heart attack. As usual with Baldwin, themes of race, sexuality and religion are to the fore. I found it a little less good than his other novels, perhaps partly because much of it's set in the world of the theatre, and one or two of the characters seemed a little too good to be true, almost as if they're wish-fulfilment figures. It also lacked a little direction. However, Baldwin did not write any...more
Jenny6shirts
I loved this book and was sad to see it end. Baldwin's writing style is so honest and straightforward - and brave, especially for its time (published in 1960s). He delves into so many sensitive and sometimes painful subjects: being black in 1950s and '60s America, bisexuality, interracial relationships, the struggles of an artist, living in a home with an alcoholic father and a troubled brother. I've read that many of the stories and characters in his novels are based on his own life. I'm lookin...more
Rianna Jade
Not his best or even in his top 5. But it's Baldwin so his language will still take you for a spin.
Hillary
This one took me awhile to finish. Yet, every time I picked it back up, I was drawn into the life of Leo Proudhammer, whose position on the outskirts of society (in terms of race, sexuality, class and career) affords him unique insight into (and disgust with) American society. I love the way Baldwin writes. Though this was not my favorite Baldwin book, I appreciate the way the characters' progressive approaches to life and art allow them to critique the rigidity and intolerance of America.
Apurva
I am very very impressed. It almost seems the writer is getting it out of the system. With some occasional uncool statements like " I am short, she is even shorter than me, but I am very strong", it also has some really good ones,
this one I will remember for a long time: "God will join us later, once he was sure, that we were on the winning side".
It is amazing how well thought it was from a drama artist perspective though.
Brett
Feb 07, 2008 Brett rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone in the theater; anyone who loves; anyone who thinks there are no longer issuse with race
Baldwin just slays me. I've never been so wrapped up in the human experience more than when I read his books. I'm likely to just give them all 4 or 5 stars each time. But this one in particular is a whopper. The depth of the characters, and their 30-year evolving histories, makes the book so rich. I lived someplace else during the reading of this book, somewhere outside of my heart and head, somewhere between me and the page. Amazing.
Sarah
i dont know why it was so damn hard to find this book. It was a really good telling story of a black man becoming an actor in a time when black people were only given roles as servers and the like. nevermind that the main character is bisexual and in a relationship with a white woman. a very good collusion of gay/color/interracial politics told in a very real way. thanks again james baldwin.
Michael Borshuk
It's not Another Country, but even lesser Baldwin still has the power to move, and reveals the commanding insights about the murky American subconscious that made him so important to the 1960s. One of the few novels I can think of from the period that focuses on an African American artist who's made it--in this case the renowned black actor Leo Proudhammer.
Monica
The writing in this book was lyrical and powerful and beautiful as Baldwin generally is. I would give the writing 10 stars if possible. The story was engaging and interesting but at times would really drag. I give the story about 3 stars. So combine that and somehow in my unmathematical mind I come up with 4 stars.
Chi Chi
By far the longest Baldwin book I've read so far, and it felt the most long-winded and rambling. Aside from this criticism, Baldwin remains one of my favorite writers for his unique ability to discuss race, religion, and sexuality in a very relatable way that doesn't come across too preachy.
Jasika
Oct 21, 2011 Jasika is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I bet it doesn't count as "currently reading" if it's been weeks since I picked it up and I don't really remember the 40 pages I read already. This is my first Baldwin book. It's a writing style I am unfamiliar with so maybe that's why it's taking me a while to get into it.
Nico
Baldwin creates "leo" as a deeply multi layered character with, super facial intentions. The book, part history lesson with a touch of grunge. Somewhat provokative, but mostly an inner contemplation of family-issues expressed and effected throughout the characters life.
Nathanial
Plot: an early-middle-aged actor has a heart attack on stage and reflects on his life, race relations, and the nation. Characters: two powerful, independent actors in love, his family, her friends. Dramatic tensions: betrayals, rebellions, unwanted alliances, reluctant passions.
Ivy Jeanne
Aug 07, 2007 Ivy Jeanne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone

This book made me weep. James Baldwin takes on the task of writing from the perspective of a successful American gay theater actor in the mid 20th century who has a had a close call with death, looking back on his life and important relationships with brutal clarity.
Rita
Aug 30, 2008 Rita is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Almost finished this book. I am fascinated by the transitions between time and how smoothly Baldwin covers that. There are long winding paragraphs of thought that if published today may not get by an editor; I sure am glad he published this when he did.
Kevin Belanger
4 stars because of his incredible writing, 1 star removed because of the way it sputters towards an ending. A missed opportunity to be a perfect novel in my mind, but I plan on reading it again in a few years and revisiting my thoughts. Excellent read.
Mary Flamingo
Oct 05, 2007 Mary Flamingo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in different perspectives on race and sexuality.
This book is totally beautiful. The language is exquisite and challenging. His ideas are new and enlightning. It was so great to read and I was like, "Nooooo!!!" when I finished reading it. It was my first book my him, and I can't wait to read some more.
Kyra
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I was not in school and I could have read it in a more continuous manner. It was well-written and engaging, and I would read more books by James Baldwin given the opportunity.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

James Baldwin offered a vital literary voice during the era of civil rights activism in the 1950s and '60s. The eldest of nine children, his stepfather was a minister. At age 14, Bal...more
More about James Baldwin...
Go Tell It on the Mountain Giovanni's Room The Fire Next Time Another Country Notes of a Native Son

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“Everyone wishes to be loved, but in the event, nearly no one can bear it. Everyone desires love but also finds it impossible to believe that he deserves it.” 36 likes
“I went down again. My heart and I went down again. I was aware of her hand. I was aware of my breathing. I could no longer see it, but I was aware of her face.” 3 likes
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