Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin is his collection of eight short stories. More so this collection is telling of the writer he was a writer who uses words like a surgeon.
Coming into this collection I had heard the excitement critics and readers alike had about James Baldwin. But now I can say I understand. In each story, the reader feels like he or she is part of it. And it doesn’t matter if the story is written in the first person like Previous Condition, Sonny’s Blues and This Morning, This Evening, So Soon or the third person like the other stories the result is the same.
His stories do not seem to contain fluff. The dialogue in each pushes the plot. He also used a letter in Sonny’s Blues, as a vehicle to give the reader Sonny’s perspective of his troubles which otherwise is narrated by his brother.
His cast of characters go beyond color, profession, social norms and most importantly they have depth. In This Morning, This Evening, So Soon, the reader meets a minor character Vidal a lesbian “who is always looking for a girl,” and Boona, a Tunisian accused of stealing. In Going To Meet The Man, the readers finds out how a picnic brought to as a child leads Jesse a Deputy Sheriff to be a racist.
Finally, there are a ton of sentences that stayed with me after reading the short stories. James shows in Sonny’s Blues what playing Jazz means to Sonny when he writes, “Here, I was in Sonny’s World. Or rather, his kingdom. Here, it was no question that his veins bore royal blood.” He shows this again in Come Out The Wilderness characterizing Paul’s relationship with Ruth. “Paul was always preparing the way for one unlikely exploit or flight or another, it was the reason he told Ruth “Everything.” To tell everything is a very effective means of keeping secrets.”
The only issue I can think about in this collection is being left with the feeling James knew more about his characters than he chose to share. Going to Meet the Man is worth the read for book lovers and writers alike.
Rashaun J. Allen (@rashaunjallen) is an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature candidate at SUNY Stony Brook, where he is working on Christine’s Dream – A Memoir of Love, Loss & Life. He is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment and has been featured in The South Hampton Review. Find more of his work at www.rashaunjallen.com