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Short Story/Novella Collection > The Fire Next Time - October 2020

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new)

Bob | 4975 comments Mod
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, was selected as our Monthly Short Story for October 2020. The discussion thread is located in the Monthly Short Story Folder:

Beware Short Story Discussions will have Spoilers.

This discussion will not be open till October 1, 2020


message 2: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) | 2606 comments I can't wait to see what others think of this.


message 3: by Annette (new)

Annette | 526 comments I have finished. It’s my first piece by Baldwin. And my knowledge of French history is abysmal. When he emigrated to France- did he find that the people were less racist?


message 4: by PinkieBrown (new)

PinkieBrown There’s a story in Notes of a Native Son where Baldwin is arrested in Paris for stealing bed linen; and given some of the stories, notably a trip to Georgia with a singing group, detail the racism he faced, that tale from jail seems almost divorced from colour. Whether Baldwin is at pains not to mention racism isn’t discernible but the difference in tone is noticeable.


message 5: by Sue (new)

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3262 comments I own this and plan to read it by the end of the year If I finish my challenges.


message 6: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 1711 comments "The fear that I heard in my father’s voice, for example, when he realized that I really believed I could do anything a white boy could do, and had every intention of proving it, was not at all like the fear I heard when one of us was ill or had fallen down the stairs or strayed too far from the house. It was another fear, a fear that the child, in challenging the white world’s assumptions, was putting himself in the path of destruction. "

Ouch!


message 7: by Lynn, Revisit the Shelf (last edited Oct 10, 2020 12:36AM) (new)

Lynn (lynnsreads) | 3359 comments Mod
Baldwin is a person I was aware of before reading this. I have seen him on television, particularly in a discussion/debate format. It had been so long though, that I had forgotten him. All the pain a child incorporates from growing up in a chaotic hate-filled time in the life of a society rushed back to me. This is not an easy thing to read. With all that is going on now, it just made life that much harder on the day I read it.


message 8: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1574 comments I own this too and hope to read it before the end of October.


message 9: by Sue (new)

Sue This is the first book I’ve read from the Catch Up On Classics group and I so enjoyed it. Deeply unsettling though.... partly because of my own ignorance about James Baldwin and his writing / activism , partly because of the hard hitting truth he speaks (still relevant today), and partly because i recognise that we all have a role to play in this issue. Very powerful. So interesting from a historical perspective too - particularly the meeting between Baldwin and Elijah Mohammad.


message 10: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 1711 comments I just read Minutes of Glory by Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. It anyone want to dig into black versus white identity, this is very relevant. The story is about a young Kenyan women who has a black and a Christian name. The use of skin whitening creme and wigs to look "white" is part of the story.


message 11: by Sue (new)

Sue Thanks for the recommendation, I will take a look.


message 12: by Philina (new)

Philina | 1562 comments I'm about 2/3 done with this and I have very mixed feelings.
On the one hand, the points he makes are really good and highly interesting, but on the other hand, I'm not completely n'sync with his style. For my personal gusto - and only my very personal preference - it has way too much religion, is quite academic and abstract and not enough to the point.
(I had the same problem with the Vindication for the Rights of Women: great points but - for my personal reading experience - horrible style).

Right now, I'm totally fascinated by the Black Muslim Nation on the grounds that the Christian god is a white god and has forsaken his black children.

I've got nothing against the subject of religion. It's a highly political topic and a motivator of many political decisions. I just guess I enjoyed Frederick Douglass' narrative a whole lot more, because it was so much more personal and less academic and contained so many points which made me cry out in horror.
Baldwin's text also contains such points, as J_BlueFlower has already cited, but hidden behind layers of abstract theory.


message 13: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 1711 comments Philina wrote: "I'm not completely n'sync with his style. .... it has way too much religion, is quite academic and abstract and not enough to the point. ..."

I had the same feeling. Or maybe more that it was old fashioned with long sentences with several ideas in the same sentence. Specially the second part feels packed without getting to the point.


message 14: by Annette (new)

Annette | 526 comments I have to summon a lot of patience to make it through long-winded diatribes like this and The Vindication of the Rights of Women. While their arguments are appropriate, I do not think their wordiness serves either of the authors well.


message 15: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) | 2606 comments That's unfortunate. Baldwin's prose style is part of why I love his writing so much. And as an atheist, if I let mentions of religion bother me, I wouldn't be able to read anything of the so-called "Western" canon.


message 16: by Philina (new)

Philina | 1562 comments Aubrey wrote: "That's unfortunate. Baldwin's prose style is part of why I love his writing so much. "

Oh, I certainly want to read Giovanni's Room. I think that for me it makes a difference if I read fiction or non-fiction. In fiction I have no problems with a flowery style (although I do prefer a simple clear prosaic style like Fredrik Backman (In my opinion he is genius, because he can convey so many emotions in so simple and short sentences.)). In non-fiction, however, I totally prefer a highly structured straight to the point text.


message 17: by Sam (new)

Sam | 312 comments This was a second read for me and in my first read, it was sandwiched between books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Confessions of Nat Turner, back in their time. The read was more nostalgic for that reason and while I still enjoy the prose, I find an attitude by the author that was so cool at the time more akin to a contrived arrogance now that IMO takes away from certain positive points in the essays but that is probably my old age showing. I don't think one can deny the significance of this and other books topical to the period but think they need to be read together with an introduction that discusses their significance rather than to just read them stand alone for a better appreciation and understanding.


message 18: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1574 comments Reading this book has helped me to understand and appreciate the background to Go Tell It on the Mountain.
This was a worthwhile read and sadly some of the points he raises are sadly relevant today.


message 19: by PinkieBrown (new)

PinkieBrown YouTube has Baldwin’s 65 debate with William Buckley at the Oxford Union on the subject of whether the American dream was built at the expense of the American negro; as an example of his delivery and his mind. I have a copy of the recent, great “I Am Not Your Negro” which centres on his relationships with Medgar Evers, MLKing and Malcolm X.


message 20: by Cynda (last edited Oct 17, 2020 04:18AM) (new)

Cynda | 3157 comments PinkieBrown wrote: "YouTube has Baldwin’s 65 debate with William Buckley at the Oxford Union on the subject of whether the American dream was built at the expense of the American negro; as an example of his delivery a..."

Pinkie Brown, do you have the name of the video or a link to the video? I would like to watch what the convo was in 1965, about 2 years after The March on Washington/I Have a Dream. North America/US infrastructure has been built (and being built) by many blacks. Their are exceptions and additions--Mexicans, Chinese, Irish--but largest, most used, worst used group is the blacks.


message 22: by Cynda (last edited Oct 20, 2020 04:51PM) (new)

Cynda | 3157 comments Carrie, having watched a YouTube video of an interview of Baldwin on the Dick Cavett show, I can well imagine that an audiobook form would be informative and nuanced. . . . and powerful, evocative, and poignant


message 23: by Cynda (last edited Oct 19, 2020 06:29PM) (new)

Cynda | 3157 comments I watched an interview of Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show. Baldwin says some true things and says the word we in polite society do not use. If you want to get a better feeling of the nuanced truth-telling Baldwin does on that talk show, private message me. I will keep for keep the link for a few days.

However there is one from TED that I can post here.


message 24: by PattyMacDotComma (last edited Oct 21, 2020 12:11AM) (new)

PattyMacDotComma I was pretty sure I'd read this a long time ago, but I ran across the title recently, before it was chosen here, and read it again. I was surprised - well, no I guess I was more appalled - at how much has not changed, although I think he hoped it would.

Don't we all kind of foolishly assume that a future world will recognise equality the way some of us think we do now? Anyway, I reviewed it recently here and said a lot more.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 25: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 1661 comments PattyMacDotComma wrote: "I was pretty sure I'd read this a long time ago, but I ran across the title recently, before it was chosen here, and read it again. I was surprised - well, no I guess I was more appalled - at how m..."

What a great review! I read this last year and like most others, I find it sad, appalling, and not entirely surprising that not enough change has occurred in the almost 60 years since Baldwin wrote these words.


message 26: by Cynda (new)

Cynda | 3157 comments What if you and others had fought for what we take for basic rights--to vote, to housing, and to read. Even if you knew that reading was an important part of doing your best for you, your family, your small business, you may not have the time or energy to learn how to read up to the 6-th grade level, the level that adult literacy programs take readers up to.

This illiteracy remained a concern for Alice Walker in the 1970s. This year I reread her collection In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose which contains works of 2 maybe 3 decades.


message 27: by Valerie (new)

Valerie (valroos) | 97 comments I thought these were very powerful essays and I really enjoyed Baldwin's writing style. Even though he seemingly drifts from one thing to the other in the second essay, I think they all serve to underline the core arguments he is making so I didn't feel the text lacked cohesion. Like others have already pointed out, it also saddened me to see how much of what he says remains relevant today. We've clearly failed to deliver on his hope, expressed at the very end of the second essay, that profound societal change will happen.


message 28: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 206 comments Sue wrote: "This is the first book I’ve read from the Catch Up On Classics group and I so enjoyed it. Deeply unsettling though.... partly because of my own ignorance about James Baldwin and his writing / activ..."

I was also a bit stunned by that encounter. I have to admit that there were parts of it I could not fully appreciate the meaning.


message 29: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 206 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "Philina wrote: "I'm not completely n'sync with his style. .... it has way too much religion, is quite academic and abstract and not enough to the point. ..."

I had the same feeling. Or maybe more ..."


I also felt like there was some "flight of ideas" that, at least for me, were not all coherent. I just couldn't keep up with all his thoughts.


message 30: by Terry (new)

Terry | 1722 comments I am just getting to this one now.


message 31: by Terry (new)

Terry | 1722 comments I finished James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. I tend to agree with others that style and coherence got in the way of my appreciation. Nevertheless, there are some interesting thoughts to ponder, still.

In general, I hate to categorize any group of people. I cannot stand the term "Karen" because it seeks to classify an entire group of people. Moreover, it is not lost on me that it is applied to women, when frequently these terms only serve to degrade or devalue women.

I am a Boomer. I hate this term, too, along with Yuppie and Cougar and the like. Just as Millennials should not be lumped into one bag, I object to classifying human beings, who are individuals, after all, in this way. I sought all of my life to speak out about racism and sexism, and to lift, promote and support women, people of color, sexual preference and those with disabilities. I have done this in my political choices and actions, in my business activities, in mentoring others and in my personal life.

However, not enough has changed since Baldwin wrote these words, and these were in my times to change. As depressing as his words were then, they still ring true today. One can surely see the racism embedded into the geography of Chicago where redlining created ghettoes that still exist, and where environmental justice does not. That our country has failed to make enough progress in these areas is not something that I take as guilt, but as a duty to persevere towards change. It has been my privilege to do this, and, I must say, my recognizably white privilege.

When I participated in the Women's March, I said to my compatriots that I couldn't believe that we still had to march for this s**t. After going through all of the recent murders protested by Black Lives Matter (George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, etc.) it is clear we do. Reading James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, reminds me of Marvin Gaye's words in "What's Going On." Both still carry a powerful message. Right on. We still do.


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