Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin

The thing with writing about books before I read them is that the books often turn out not to be what I expected, or, in this case, not even the book I expected it to be. You never hear that side of the story. I don’t go back to correct my misconceptions, and I don’t review them after the fact. The former is difficult–letting my errors stand–but the latter is mostly on purpose. I don’t like a lot of what I read and telling that story can come across as overly negative (it’s not; more on that another time). I write about what I think the books are about. Someone who has already read the book will necessarily know when I am talking rubbish.

If it hadn’t been for one unexpected conversation, I would be writing now about how James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain is one of those books you always come across on best-of lists, and, like too many others, one I never got around to reading, so when the documentary I Am Not Your Negro came out recently, it reminded me that unlike all the obscure pop titles on my to-read list, Baldwin’s books would actually be in the university library, and how I got out Nobody Knows My Name thinking it was the unfinished manuscript which the documentary adapted and it would have been really difficult not to come back and revise this post when I realised my mistake.

-Reading the Why



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