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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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,940 Ratings  ·  124 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 l
Paperback, Vintage International, 496 pages
Published February 17th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1968)
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Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
Leo is a famous, black, bisexual stage actor who has just had a serious heart attack. As he is in the hospital he thinks back on episodes of his life, in non-chronological order. This structure made the writing a little choppy. I've been reading a lot of James Baldwin this year and this is the first book that I've felt was too long (by about 200 pages). I preferred the parts of the book that dealt with the theater, but the parts about Leo's childhood in Harlem felt like I'd read them before in o ...more
Curtis Ackie
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bir dönem ülkemizde de yaşayan, tiyatro oyunları sahneleyen james baldwin'in son büyük eseri kabul edilen ve kimi otobiyografik öğelerde bulunan Ne Zaman Gitti Treni büyük bir keyifle okudum.

Kitap 40'lı yaşların başında olan büyük tiyatro sanatçısı Leo Proudhammer'in sahnede geçirdiği kalp krizi ile başlıyor. Sonrasında ölümden dönen kahramanınımızı hastane odasında geçmişiyle boğuşurken buluyoruz. Üç bölümden oluşan kitabın Ev Zencisi bölümünde 30' ların Harlem'ine konuk oluyoruz. siyah bir çoc
Juliette Barasch
Three and a half stars? A deeply frustrating read at times, due to some serious navel-gazing, which makes sense for a protagonist of this sort, but is ultimately mostly unrewarding for the reader. I feel Leo's written pretty inconsistently, especially with regard to his inner dialogue with his awareness as a politicized subject. It's a bloated, floaty, drifting novel that jumps timelines and burns slowly, but Baldwin dazzled me with his ability to make me want to spend a lot of time with this ca ...more
Joachim Stoop
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I was a bit anxious to read this one because lately I've been eagerly declaring that Baldwin (with Stefan Zweig) is my favourite -or at least the most versatile and ahead of his era- writer.

Baldwin's essay collections are sublime and even (or better: certainly) today quintessential reading. But his novels, man! Don't misjudge his scope: he goes way further than the afro-American struggle theme he's famous for. I actually know few writers with such depth and insight in the human psyche and such
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fully-reviewed
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
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Ronald Morton
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I won’t bury the lede: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone is one of my favorite works of 20th century literature; if you haven’t read it (or haven’t read Baldwin) you should consider that a gap worthy of being filled post haste. While not essential to one’s reading, I would recommend pairing this with The Fire Next Time, as there are numerous autobiographical details discussed in that book that directly contribute to moments in this book.
There was something very wonderful which Salvatore b
Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Rod-Kelly Hines
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-owned
Jimmy leaves my jaw on the floor Everytime! There is no greater writer.
Armin Hennig
Hundert Jahre Freiheit ohne Gleichberechtigung ist der Titel eines Sachbuches von James Baldwin aus der Zeit der Bürgerrechtsbewegung. Vermutlich nimmt er in diesem Diskurs eine bedeutende Rolle ein, sicher auch in der Chronologie der Literatur der Amerikaner mit afrikanischen Wurzeln. Wenn sich etwas positives über dieses Buch sagen lässt, dann, dass es sich wohl um einen Versuch handelt, die seinerzeit bestehende Ungleichheit in Romanform zu verarbeiten.
Hatte mir das Buch sozusagen als Roots 1
Kenya (ReviewsMayVary)
Looooooong. Leo is an old successful man reflecting/ remembering his life from younger brother in Harlem to accomplished actor.

Great realistic coming of age, fiction, bisexual MC. Race, love, siblings. #WNDB
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: br, 2016, 4-5-stars

4.5 stars

Baldwin’s view of America is different that the view I get from other books. It’s a view full with pain, hurt, anger, violence, poverty, racism which affect in one way all another all the people in play that is all Americans.
"I was part of these people, no matter how bitterly I judged them. I would never be able to leave this country. I could only leave it briefly, like a drowning man coming up for air. I had the choice of perishing with these doomed people, or of fleeing them, denying
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
Kamron Alexander
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my second Baldwin title, and he still sits as one of the best writers i've ever stumbled upon. In this novel, just like Another Country, I saw parts of myself in many of the characters, which is a talent that cannot be scaled.
The pain and the lust and the intimacy and the world pre-civil rights all was hyper real and demonstrated how many aspects of the Black American Male psyche has not changed, and cannot change without replacing instilled hatred with love. As hard as that actually is
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mine
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
Jabiz Raisdana
James Baldwin talks to a part of my soul like no other writer. I have read three of his books so far and have made a promise to read every word he has ever written. This is great, because he has over 20 novels, plays, and collections of short stories and essays.

He writes about race, class, art and life like no one else. He is one of the most important writers of our time. The content is not for MS readers, but he is a name you should add to your list when you are older as someone to explore.

Chris brown
The prose of this book is, in actuality, poetic. This was not one of my favorite Bladwin books but the beauty and craftsmanship of how these words are place together keeps you reading to the very end. I think if I had been a different person, maybe interested in theater or film, or if I had a brother, maybe that deeper connection would have been made. Still this book is high art well worth a read and discussion.
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I hate to rate this book only four stars because it's Baldwin. The work is a good loooong example of Baldwin's narrative style; talky, conversational, personal. But it mostly works against him here and feels like (and I may have even read this in the Bio I read on him) that while he was writing it, he had to crank out pages for the publisher and really had no idea where he was going with it. There's no real reason this book needs to be so long.

The story of stage actor Leo Proudhammer begins wit
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
The fact that some parts of this book was written in Istanbul makes my heart happy, it's ridiculous but I don't care lol.

You know what I wanna do this summer? Drop everything and read all the Baldwin books I can get my hands on!! ^.^ This was the longest book of James Baldwin I have yet to read but there wasn't one dull moment. I don't know how he does it but the writing in every one of his books keeps me captivated from the first page to the last. Baldwin's stories are not particularly happy s
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’m so conflicted about this book but had to round down to two stars. Of almost 500 pages, there were definitely a dozen plus sentences that made the book worthwhile - profound, clear, beautiful insights. The first quarter and last quarter of the book moved quickly and moved towards purpose. The middle, though, was a confusing wall of unbroken text. The manned in which it’s written - switching time frames so quickly, and no paragraph breaks for several pages - is disorienting and difficult to ch ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I always enjoy spending time with James Baldwin. This novel doesn’t fall short of his voice, obviously. He did with it what he does best: present difficult themes like race and sexuality in America while allowing his reader to build a relationship with the characters. I wonder what kind of story Baldwin would write in 2017.
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The dialogue in this novel is incredibly honest and brave.
Son Lam
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
“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
Jo Stafford
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when I was a teenager. Returning to it a few decades later felt like revisiting a beloved friend, except I now have enough life experience to appreciate it even more than I did when I first read it. Baldwin's eloquence and poetic prose once again captured me, but this time around I was also struck by his understanding of the human condition. Baldwin always bore witness to the injustices meted out against African Americans and this is to the fore in this novel. But it was h ...more
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gay, book-club, ebooks
This book goes on and on and on and could have been 100-150 pages shorter without losing much. There were scenes I really enjoyed in this book, and I especially enjoyed the last 50 pages or so, but overall, not my cup of tea.
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
this book is so amazing, james baldwin has a way of describing things i could never even imagine being able to describe, in ways that make yr heart and brain explode! now i must read all his other books, as soon as possible.
Noah Riley
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing read, then the ending left me feeling thrust out of the story, unfinished.
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Hmm. I really thought I loved James Baldwin - which is why I made the effort to track down this novel. I've read a few of his more 'famous' novels, and many of his essays. His essays are mostly brilliant. This novel? not so much. I thought it was too long. I didn't much care for the structure. I don't mind flashbacks -- in fact it seems absolutely necessary for a character who's recovering from a potentially deadly illness to review his life -- but the way these flashbacks were set forth was, we ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the one remaining Baldwin novel that I had not yet read. How refreshing to return to his work. This, to me, is what a novel is...journeying through a person's life. Understanding there are real, meaningful things at stake. And, of course, Baldwin's prose and insights:

I had become accustomed to the smile which masked a guilty awareness. Americans are always lying to themselves about that kinsman they call the Negro, and they are always lying to him, and I had grown accustomed to the tone
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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. He was the eldest of nine children; his stepfather was a mini
More about James Baldwin

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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.” 55 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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