"Going to Meet the Man" Baldwin Reviews and Annotated Bibliography

Note: this style of writing is called “block writing.” A string of thoughts, analyzing the structure in which authors build their arguments.


I have always looked at scholarly reviews as something that was not for me, something that was higher than my intellectual potential, and yet, many of my findings have disproved my initial opinion. It might be because I was too young and immature when first exposed to them, and because many articles I read were science related and consisted of data and language that I was unfamiliar with. Now that I am familiar with Baldwin, more familiar than some of these scholars, dare I say, I am able to see through their speculations for what I think is accurate or inaccurate. I organized the table of contents by the most relevant on top, and then in chronological order for those not so relevant. I thought the first, a review by Matt Brim called “Papas' Baby: Impossible Paternity in “Going to Meet the Man”” was rather interesting, while looking at it in the thematic sense. Brim clearly understands the conflict within Baldwin which is the issue of racism and how he understands it/tries to understand it. The ‘impossible paternity’ which Brim writes about alludes to Baldwin’s own father, a prominent figure of power and dominance in his upbringing as well as the white man, and their dominion over his entire race. What I found to be profound was the quote I placed in my annotations: “a dual fatherhood…comprised of the African father’s banished name and the body and the captor’s father’s mocking presence” (174). When Baldwin was alive, the emancipation of the black race had obviously already happened, but even so, he faced much resistance through the white race, and that enraged him. There is nothing that makes me more angry than when someone tries to make fun of me or laugh at me when I am being serious. And the topic of equality is a very serious one, indeed. A considerable amount of what Brim writes, however, is contrived and hard to understand if you are not willing to do the research on his behalf, for he makes references to certain things that I know nothing of, such as the problem of “raced masculinity in America” (174). In the meat of his review, he stays close to the text and references it well, showing competency in the use of his citations. Brim makes allegations and connections that might be a stretch, for example, “the urban rockpile…symbolizes the hard and unusable land of a disinherited black people, a fact thrown into sharp relief by the lush and fertile fields handed down from white father to white son in ‘The Man Child’” (175). I say it is a stretch, because he calls his symbolism of the rockpile a “fact,” when Baldwin wrote “The Man Child” in 1960 and “Going to Meet the Man” in 1965. It is easy to make connections between stories but it is not easy to prove these connections were indeed the true intention of the author, and that he meant to make the contrast between the rockpile in front of the house in Harlem and the luscious green fields the white boy inherited. Brim then goes on to psychoanalyze the thoughts of Roy’s father in “The Rockpile,” stating that “Gabriel sees in his son’s blood the symbol of his paternal legacy, raced as that legacy is by the erasure of property rights…Roy’s blood provokes in Gabriel a possessive reaction: neatly responding to the racial threat to black fatherhood” (175). The quote Brim provides as proof to these claims hardly supports his argument, for any father who sees his son should feel compassion and worry, and it is not likely that Gabriel showed this reaction because of a “threat to black fatherhood.” After having taken this class and not been allowed to use the words “symbol,” “meaning,” etc., it is difficult to read such explanations of thematics and take it as seriously as I used to. All Brim is really writing about are speculations, and he announces them in a way that is so confident, that makes me think of Brim as wrong in some ways. He shouldn’t be announcing certain observations and claims as ‘fact,’ unless he had the opportunity to see if that was indeed Baldwin’s intention with the author himself. One essay I really enjoyed reading was “James Baldwin's Style: A Prospectus for the Classroom” by John F. Fleischauer, for I found it to be the most relevant to this class and the most helpful in my understanding of Baldwin and the way he writes. It was amazing to see all the data Fleischauer had collected on Baldwin’s syntax; he starts with general observations, “Baldwin’s paragraphs average a little over seven sentences each, and the sentences average about twenty-five words” (142). I know he must have taken the time to count all these sentences and paragraphs himself, as well as all those he contrasts Baldwin’s count to, such as Arthur Miller, Jack Kerouac, and J. Edgar Hoover. He states that “Baldwin’s sentences, in the regularity and general consistency of their length, are typical of standard American intellectual prose. He then delves deeper, “sixty four percent of his verbs are active, only nine percent passive, and the rest - twenty six percent - are is verbs” (142). I am a realist, and therefore need factual backing for proclamations, which Fleischauer provides in his footnotes. The fact that he went so deep as to count the amount of verbs, and what kind of verbs is so interesting to me, not only because of the time it takes to do such a thing, but also because he is so good at relating his evidence to other findings in a clear and concise way. He measures his findings for Baldwin’s verb usage to three other news providers: The Atlantic, Newsweek, and U.S. News, as well as to his students’ essays. The way he presents these contrasts, Fleischauer provides enough information for a student of my reading level and mental capacity to understand, even with little prior knowledge of English as a study. And in addition to making it simple enough for my immature mind to understand, he helps me learn from his findings and make better my writing style. The last sentence I wrote was twenty-seven words long, and perhaps too wordy, but I would never know to look at something so specific and be able to compare it to common American prose. I usually write simplistically, and I try to be to the point, but it is very difficult to do it efficiently and still have the same effect on the reader. I don’t even really know the difference between active, passive, and is verbs, but I would like to learn in order to make my points in a more compelling manner.

Annotated Bibliography

Papas' Baby: Impossible Paternity in “Going to Meet the Man”

Matt Brim

Journal of Modern Literature , Vol. 30, No. 1 (Autumn, 2006), pp. 173-198

Matt Brim uses the three original short stories from the collection, “The Rockpile,” “The Manchild” and “Going to Meet the Man,” as well as Spillers’ 1987 essay, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Brim analyzes these stories by what he calls the impossible paternity; as quoted from Spillers: “a dual fatherhood…comprised of the African father’s banished name and the body and the captor’s father’s mocking presence” (174). He thus speaks of how a black man has a black father who can not help him and a white “father” who will not help him.

James Baldwin's Confrontation with Racist Terror in the American South: Sexual Mythology and Psychoneurosis in “Going to Meet the Man”

Paul Griffith

Journal of Black Studies , Vol. 32, No. 5 (May, 2002), pp. 506-527

As stated in the title, this review on “Going to Meet the Man” deals mainly with the sexual and psychological problems portrayed within the short story. Paul Griffith examines the protagonist, yet it is sometimes indiscernible whether he is speaking of the mind Jesse or Baldwin. This analysis is a very specific view into the methods and effects the short story has on its reader on the topic of undermining humanity and warping of the social character due to extreme racism.

James Baldwin's Style: A Prospectus for the Classroom

John F. Fleischauer

College Composition and Communication , Vol. 26, No. 2 (May, 1975), pp. 141-148 I was surprised to find this essay within the realm of essays on Baldwin, for in it, Fleischauer speaks of many things we are trying to attempt in class. He analyzes Baldwin’s style, structure, and prose for the purpose of “helping to make students more aware of the significant elements of his and their prose” (141). He rarely speaks of thematics and, while referencing certain essays of Baldwin, he only provides a handful of block-quotations of the writing. Fleischauer is very concise and delves deep into his analysis.

“Sonny's Blues”: James Baldwin's Image of Black Community

John M. Reilly

Negro American Literature Forum , Vol. 4, No. 2 (Jul., 1970), pp. 56-60

This is a review of “Sonny’s Blues,” a short story from his collection of stories named “Going to Meet the Man.” Reilly is arguing that, while some people have stated that Baldwin’s Essays and non-fiction pieces are of higher quality than his fiction, “Sonny’s Blues” is just as good, if not better than his non-fiction.

The Jazz-Blues Motif in James Baldwin's “Sonny's Blues”

Richard N. Albert

College Literature , Vol. 11, No. 2 (Spring, 1984), pp. 178-185

Albert states that Baldwin misuses several references to Jazz/Blues in “Sonny’s Blues,” and that there are certain thematic and structural flaws in his story, but states that he might have done so in order to leave room for interpretation on the reader’s behalf. The majority of the article picks apart Baldwin’s usage of contemporary references to music and how he misuses these references. He concludes the article with a series of questions of Baldwin’s true intentions, stating, “Is it possible…he is indicating that tradition is very important, but that change is also important and that it builds on tradition?” This whole article seems to be quite specific to the field of blues and jazz history, and not so much on Baldwin as a writer, or the storyline in thematic or structural views.

Sonny's Bebop: Baldwin's “Blues Text” as Intracultural Critique

Tracey Sherard

African American Review , Vol. 32, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 691-705

Tracey Sherard attempts to bring another aspect to this oversaturated topic of Baldwin’s use of blues/jazz/bebop. Much of what Sherard says is very similar to the two earlier reviews on “Sonny’s Blues” that are listed above, and she is mainly thematic in her analysis. It is interesting that the three articles are each spaced fourteen years apart, however. The attempt to offer a fresh opinion on the work is appreciated.

James Baldwin: The Struggle for Identity

Beau Fly Jones

The British Journal of Sociology , Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jun., 1966), pp. 107-121

Mr. Jones he seems rather forward thinking in the way he approaches Baldwin’s work and praises him for his racial view, while criticizing the white race for having a ‘white problem,’ as opposed to there being a ‘Negro problem.’ I could not find a biography of this fellow so I cannot know his race, although I assume he is white. Jones’ ideas on the problem Baldwin faces in his writings seems much more naive than Baldwins, as he tries to explain and explore the roots of Baldwin’s thoughts. He fabricates possibilities of what could have happened to make Baldwin feel this way and much of what he says is exaggerated or false.

You Must Go Home Again: Today's Afro-American Expatriate Writers

Stanley Schatt

Negro American Literature Forum , Vol. 7, No. 3 (Autumn, 1973), pp. 80-82

Stanley Schatt summarizes Baldwin’s works and inner feelings throughout his article with a certitude and confidence that makes it seem as though he knows Baldwin personally. The mention of “Going to Meet the Man” is short, yet the way he describes it is that the collection is autobiographical in the sense of time and substance. I agree with his statement.

The Divided Mind of James Baldwin

C. W. E. Bigsby

Journal of American Studies , Vol. 13, No. 3 (Dec., 1979), pp. 325-342

This article serves as “an account of a career and a mind instructively divided, a sensibility drawn in opposing directions.” There are few mentions of the collection of short stories, none of them providing much more than positive thoughts on how they portray Baldwin as an author and African-American in his era.

James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation. by Therman B. O'Daniel

Review by: Keneth Kinnamon

Black American Literature Forum , Vol. 13, No. 1 (Spring, 1979), p. 33

This is a very short book review on O’Daniel’s James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation. Kinnamon Praises O’Daniel’s work by calling it a “welcome addition to a growing number of books about a major black author.” Nothing much else of substance appears in this review.

James Baldwin. by Louis H. Pratt

Review by: Daryl C. Dance

Black American Literature Forum , Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer, 1980), pp. 81-82

This article is a critique on Louis H. Pratt’s book on James Baldwin. Dance calls it a “persistence on imposing some grander raison d’etre” and states that Pratt lacks a “general, critical and largely thematic overview of Baldwins works,” which is something which he finds imperative to writing biographies of authors. He concludes by stating that, for Baldwin Scholars and others who know his works well, that it will be viewed as a “useful addition few full-length Baldwin studies available.”

Black American Fiction: A Bibliography by Carol Fairbanks; Eugene A. Engeldinger; The Black American Short Story in the 20th Century: A Collection of Critical Essays by Peter Bruck

Review by: Werner Sollors

Journal of American Studies , Vol. 14, No. 1, BAAS Jubilee Issue (Apr., 1980), pp. 170-173

Werner Sollors briefly mentions a review of Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man” in this article, stating that “Freese convincingly defends Baldwin’s technique by investigating the writer’s time and space structure and displaying it in schematic tables.”

Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin. by Trudier Harris

Review by: Ketu H. Katrak

Black American Literature Forum , Vol. 20, No. 4, Women Writers Issue (Winter, 1986), pp. 449-458

This piece is a review on a review of Baldwin, so twice removed from the original works of Baldwin. Katrak states: “Harris argues that Baldwin’s portrayal of women moves in a spectrum from women suffering almost total secular and sacred male domination of their lives in his earlier works to the freedom of Julia Miller in Just Above My Head, who has separated herself from the church and the male lovers of her life to achieve self-identity” (120). It might be interesting to go through Going to Meet the Man, arranging his works from earliest to latest, to see if I see any change in the black women’s roles in respect to their freedoms.

James Baldwin by Carolyn Wedin Sylvander

Review by: Michel Fabre

The Modern Language Review , Vol. 79, No. 2 (Apr., 1984), pp. 444-447

This paragraph-long review is more of a recommendation by Michel Fabre of Wedin Sylvander’s book on Baldwin. He compliments her for a discerning, yet sympathetic approach to understanding and reading Baldwin. Firstly, she focuses on his non-fiction as a base for knowing him, then moving to his fiction; similar to the way we approached Baldwin in our class.

“Tearing a Hole in History”: Lynching as Theme and Motif

Phyllis R. Klotman

Black American Literature Forum , Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), pp. 55-63

In this essay, Klotman directly references Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man” story, but Klotman’s writing is purely in relation to motif and theme analysis. He attempts to discover what the meaning behind Baldwin’s story but also makes assumptions and relations that bother me; “Not only is his being a man related to his sexual potency…” (57).

Black City Lights: Baldwin's City of the Just

James M. Hughes

Journal of Black Studies , Vol. 18, No. 2 (Dec., 1987), pp. 230-241

This is an acclaim to Baldwin’s works. Hughes only references “Going to Meet the Man” in his works cited, but says something rather interesting in his article; that Baldwin likes to use epigraphs. I looked through our books by Baldwin that we had to read and all I could find were dedications.

“Payin' One's Dues”: Expatriation as Personal Experience and Paradigm in the Works of James Baldwin

James Baldwin and Robert Tomlinson

African American Review , Vol. 33, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 135-148

In this article, Tomlinson speaks much of leaving the country in the 1960’s and how it affected both Baldwin and him. This review would be much more useful if I were to choose to write about Giovanni’s room, but might help in seeing what a friend of Baldwin might have to say about him. Someone who knows Baldwin personally will have more insight than someone who doesn’t know him.

The Critical Reception of James Baldwin in Japan: An Annotated Bibliography

Yoshinobu Hakutani and Toru Kiuchi

Black American Literature Forum , Vol. 25, No. 4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 753-779

This list of published Baldwin pieces in Japan might be interesting to compare to the list of writings published in the United States as well as in France. This is a detailed list of his publishings, shortened summaries, sometimes noting how popular they were.

A Prophet Is Not Without Honor

Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin by James Campbell

Review by: Ekwueme Michael Thelwell

Transition , No. 58 (1992), pp. 90-113

Thelwell speaks extremely highly of Baldwin and other black leaders of the time. This article is quite dense and elaborate about what James Campbell has forgotten to mention in his own book on James Baldwin. Thelwell mentions three works: Blues for Mr. Charlie (1964), Going to Meet the Man (1965) and No Name in the Street (1972), a play, collection of short stories, and memoir of the movement, respectively. He states that these three works are “the consolidation of critical alienation,” yet that “these are among Baldwin’s most courageous and important works” (102). He makes very poignant points which are very telling of Baldwin’s works in total, using adjectives such as, “stern, insightful, unblinking, and unforgiving.”

Re-Viewing James Baldwin: Things Not Seen by D. Quentin Miller

Review by: Gary Storhoff

African American Review , Vol. 35, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 669-671

This is an article of Gary Storhoff, reviewing a collection of ten essays assembled by Quentin Miller. Miller states in his introduction that Baldwin’s later works are of lesser value than his earlier works, and that it is due to the demand for political topics within Baldwin’s writing, and his unpopular critique on those topics as well as his bitterness, that led to his bad reputation. Miller’s collection consists of reviews and studies done by ten other scholars and serves to highlight the important works Baldwin produced late in his career.

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