Synopses & Reviews
James Baldwin was beginning to be recognized as the most brilliant black writer of his generation when his first book of essays, Notes of a Native Son
established his reputation in 1955. No one was more pleased by the book’s reception than Baldwin’s high school friend Sol Stein. A rising New York editor, novelist, and playwright, Stein had suggested that Baldwin do the book and coaxed his old friend through the long and sometimes agonizing process of putting the volume together and seeing it into print. Now, in this fascinating new book, Sol Stein documents the story of his intense creative partnership with Baldwin through newly uncovered letters, photos, inscriptions, and an illuminating memoir of the friendship that resulted in one of the classics of American literature. Included in this book are the two works they created together–the story “Dark Runner” and the play Equal in Paris
, both published here for the first time.
Though a world of difference separated them–Baldwin was black and gay, living in self-imposed exile in Europe; Stein was Jewish and married, with a growing family to support–the two men shared the same fundamental passion. Nothing mattered more to either of them than telling and writing the truth, which was not always welcome. As Stein wrote Baldwin in a long, heartfelt letter, “You are the only friend with whom I feel comfortable about all three: heart, head, and writing.” In this extraordinary book, Stein unfolds how that shared passion played out in the months surrounding the creation and publication of Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, in which Baldwin’s main themes are illuminated.
A literary event published to honor the eightieth anniversary of James Baldwin’s birth, Native Sons is a celebration of one of the most fruitful and influential friendships in American letters.
"Legendary writer/editor/publisher Stein (The Magician; How to Grow a Novel) gives readers a backstage pass to the production of Baldwin's landmark essay collection Notes of A Native Son in this compilation of letters and memories. While only book publishing aficionados may be interested to know that Stein and Baldwin were partially responsible for debunking the myth that essays don't sell, and that Notes's paperback format was a crucial part of Baldwin's successful debut as an essayist, more readers will be intrigued by the two men's amiable debates and their friendship, which began while both were students and budding writers at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. Their correspondence, dated between 1955 and 1958, includes line edits of Baldwin's works, pleas by Stein for Baldwin to finish his writing and lengthy deliberations on politics, culture, race and the difficulty of finding a place in a sometimes not-so-welcoming native land. This last issue was a hallmark theme of Baldwin's work, and perhaps the most prominent tie that bound the African-American and the Jewish American together. Half of the book is devoted to the reproduction of 'Dark Matter,' a previously unpublished play that the friends co-authored. All of these materials will be extremely valuable to literary scholars, but casual readers are likely to find the volume rather disjointed, especially since the letters begin only in the year of Notes's publication and veer into numerous directions that stray far from the topic of getting Notes to the printer." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Baldwin's letters are extremely moving....Stein's involving commentary is rich in fascinating literary history and sharp observations on racism, anti-Semitism, and their biracial friendship." Booklist
"[R]eaders will be intrigued by the two men's amiable debates and their friendship....All of these materials will be extremely valuable to literary scholars, but casual readers are likely to find the volume rather disjointed..." Publishers Weekly
"This book will appeal to readers interested in Baldwin's creative process as well as to Baldwin scholars previously unable to obtain access to the letters. General readers would probably benefit from reading a fuller biography before tackling this book." Library Journal
Exploring the friendship that created one of the greatest works of the 20th century, this collection features never-before-published material by James Baldwin and his longtime friend, Sol Stein, co-creators of Notes of a Native Son. 8-page photo insert.
About the Author
For over three decades, Sol Stein
edited and published some of the leading writers of the Twentieth century, including James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, and Lionel Trilling. A prize-winning playwright and the author of nine novels, as well as nonfiction books, screenplays, and TV dramas, Stein lives in New York.
Born in 1924, James Baldwin made a name for himself with his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain in 1953. His legendary Notes of a Native Son appeared two years later, and he went on to publish fiction, poetry, plays, and essays that profoundly influenced the literature of Twentieth-century America. Baldwin died in France in 1987.