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after such a long time is how "current" Baldwin is.That might sound like a cliche, but in so many instances in our lives we learn that some cliches are built on things solid and familiar and timeless.
One of his challenges was to define what it meant to be a "native son": I know, in any case, that the most crucial time in my own development came when I was forced to recognize that I was a kind of bastard of the West; when I followed the line of my past I did not find myself in Europe but in Africa.
And this meant that in some subtle way, in a really profound way, I brought to Shakespeare, Bach, Rembrandt, to the stones of Paris, to the cathedral at Chartres, and to the Empire State Building, a special attitude. Something like this, anyway, has something to do with my beginnings.
It is a fearful inheritance, for which untold multitudes, long ago, sold their birthright. "My last night in New Jersey, a white friend from New York took me to the nearest big town, Trenton, to go to the movies and have a few drinks.
As it turned out, he also saved me from, at the very least, a violent whipping.
It was a movie about the German occupation of France, starring Maureen O'Hara and Charles Laughton and called .
I remember the name of the diner we walked into when the movie ended: it was the 'American Diner.' When we walked in the counterman asked what we wanted and I remember answering with the casual sharpness which had become my habit: 'We want a hamburger and a cup of coffee, what do you think we want?
The story of my childhood is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the restrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again." So begins James Baldwin's autobiographical note to his essay collection came out.
Even so, he told a friend that he thought it was too early in his life for a "memoir." Baldwin wrote elegantly and honestly and passionately about race relations in America, and he did so from a lofty perspective, both self-aware and world-wise.
' I do not know why, after a year of such rebuffs, I so completely failed to anticipate his answer, which was, of course, 'We don't serve Negroes here.' This reply failed to discompose me, at least for the moment.
I made some sardonic comment about the name of the diner and we walked out into the streets." And chaos followed.