Great points as always; and of course, this 👆🏼is a bit true, to which I’d encounter these days, anyone who wants to be read relies on sensationalized click bait to attract readers.
I suspect, if you actually want to be paid for anything you write, it’s the only way to go. And while yes, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and my personal favorite Langston Hughes are undisputedly great American authors, It is no longer their time.
No, this is an different time entirely. And I really do think Son of Baldwin is a sort of James Baldwin 2.0, and I do not say that sort of thing lightly.
I’ve never encountered another African-American author that even comes close to the audacity of James Baldwin, in terms of challenging the bundle of paradoxes and contradictions that America is.
Believe me, I’ve given it some thought, because I love ❤️ James Baldwin. When I initially saw the moniker “Son of Baldwin” I thought, “he’s awfully presumptuous. Those are quite large literary shoes to fill, and in claiming that name, he is almost certainly setting himself up for failure, or at least would be, if most people knew who James Baldwin was, or have even read him.”
But outside of a few literary snobs, most people don’t know, or even care about James Baldwin, so he gets away with it. And, it is a bit obnoxious, like claiming to be “Son of Shakespeare” and SOB wouldn’t be able to get away with that.
But James Baldwin and Son of Baldwin, I have read them both — and I have come to the conclusion that SOB is in fact channeling James Baldwin!
Have you even read James Baldwin? If you have, then you have to admit that he is certainly the sort of provocateur that Son of Baldwin is imitating, in a Gen X or millennial style — which is to say excessive cynicism, irreverence, apathy and in this case antipathy is required.
I think James Baldwin would be proud and would claim him as his heir, all things considered. The most important being this is a different day and time. Different things are happening, differently — and as a result writers are different, and readers are different and sadly clickbait is the name of the game, for everyone.
Which is sad for all of us really. What does it say for our society when the only way a good writer can get the recognition he craves is to write a piece called “Let them Fucking Die.”
Now that went viral.
Which takes us back to Pogo, always Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”
And I can totally understand why you’d think Son of Baldwin is a carnival barking, click bait whore, and you’re not wrong. But he can easily counter, “and so is everyone getting paid.” All the “journalists” for example, on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC — at least Son of Baldwin slips in real thoughtful and truly provocative commentary. He can make people think, if people care to be intellectually honest about highly controversial subjects like racism and homophobia, and most people do not. But is that his fault? No. But it is the reason why he is pushing the envelope, always, all the way to the post office.
So you’re right, he probably just makes most people angry. But that doesn’t mean he can’t write.
I love strong writing and good writers — and it doesn’t matter who they are or what the subject is. James Baldwin is one of my faves, because he wrote one of the best love stories EVER- in my view. If Beale Street Could Talk. But then too, I also love that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice — also one of the best love stories ever! And these two authors couldn’t be more different, in terms of identity.
One is a 20th century black American gay man. The other a British, Victorian era white woman — and yet, I love them both. They know how to tell one hell of a love story!
So, I say all of that to say this. I know good writers, because I read A LOT.
And not just one kind of genre, all kind of genres. Right now I’m sort of obsessing over George R.R. Martin’s ASOFAI series, because well Game of Thrones!!!!
You can’t watch that show and not want to read those books, even though they are super long, and super nerdy.
They ain’t for everyone — and neither is Son of Baldwin, doesn’t mean he can’t write.
And truly, you have to recognize this too, even if you don’t want to. Why? Because you too, can write. And usually the only way people become good writers is by reading good writing. And…a lot of it.
So you might not agree with the content — but if I were to some how neutralize it…if I were to take his identity out of the picture and throw out an SOB quote, and ask you if you thought the writing was good, you would probably agree that is was.
Want to know something funny? I used to give my students a long list of quotes and then a list of names…I would ask them to connect the quotes with the names.
Do you know who they confused all the time? Malcolm X, Newt Gingrich and Bill Oreilly. Why? Because they were all saying the same kinds of outrageous, provocative, extreme things.
And yet how we respond to these authors depends upon the skin they are in. Newt and Bill are largely considered American heroes. Malcolm X? A villain, for sure. And yet, they all say the same sorts of things.
So if you would just look at the writing, as a skill, as a craft, I bet you’d be able to see what I see.
But I bet SOB represents to you, what that Mylo character represents to me, just so much craziness that you don’t want to wade through, just to understand the hype. And I can respect that.
But -these types have their fans…someone is listening, or they wouldn’t keep speaking and writing. In an attempt to understand another perspective — we do have to reach outside of our comfort zone and occasionally read something that we might find slightly nauseating.
I sometimes do find SOB mildly disturbing, but I assure you, he has fans who take his word as gospel. If I were you, (quite honestly if I were any white person in America) I’d be curious as to why that is. He provides a certain uncensored view into what a lot of black Americans really think and feel about racism in America — if I were white, I think I’d want to know the truth, not just the trite MLK cliches, that make me feel comfortable.
And Steve, you are that kind of white person. You just can’t help it. You want to know the truth, which is why you even bother with this kind of discourse, which most whites view as a waste of time.
And in a way they are right. There are no immediate rewards for them, in learning about what Blacks think and feel about American racism.
And so I applaud your curiosity, your searching, your attempts to understand. I get it why SOB is never going to be your cup of tea, but I think that you can at least understand why he’s mine. If you really think about it, you’ll get it. I mean I kind of understand why you like Trump. (Kind of!)