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"...as a favor to you..."

James Baldwin followed up his successful debut, Go Tell It On the Mountain, with Giovanni's Room which, to the consternation of his publisher Knopf, had nothing but white characters. The publisher wanted another "black novel."
"So they told me, 'You cannot afford to alienate that audience. This new book will ruin your career, because you’re not writing about the same things and in the same manner as you were before, and we won’t publish this book as a favor to you.'"
What an astoundingly paternalistic, condescending thing for a publisher to say, especially to a young writer. Baldwin ultimately did quite for himself, writing what he wanted to write.

My Baldwin experience has been mixed. I loved Go Tell It On the Mountain, was underwhelmed by Notes of a Native Son and remember nothing about Another Country other than the sex scenes. But I do want to read Giovanni.

February 27, 2016 in Books | Permalink