The Poet And The Prophet
Honesty time: As a writer, I’m really envious of novelists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Baldwin. If only I could write like that. These guys, they seem to write so effortlessly, like poetry and prose just flows from their fingertips.
I’ve known about Fitzgerald for a long time, but Baldwin is one of my new favorites. This guy, wow, is a powerful writer. The rhythm and cadence of his writing–I’ve never read anything like it.
Take this passage from Go Tell It On The Mountain, for instance, which occurs after Gabriel, a “God-fearing” pastor and father, spends the night with a prostitute:
The silence was the silence of the early morning, and he was returning from the harlot’s house. Yet all around him were the sounds of the morning: of birds, invisible, praising God; of crickets in the vines, frogs in the swamp, or dogs miles away and close at hand, roosters on the porch. The sun was not yet half awake; only the utmost tops of the trees had begun to tremble at his turning; and the mist moved sullenly, before Gabriel and all around him, falling back before the light that rules the day. Later, he said of that morning that his sin was on him; then he knew only that he carried a burden and that he longed to lay it down. This burden was heavier than the heaviest mountain and he carried it in his heart. With each step that he took his burden grew heavier, and his breath became slow and harsh, and, of a sudden, cold sweat stood out on his brow and drenched his back.
I could read writing like that all day. Reminds me a little of Harper Lee’s writing in the early pages of To Kill A Mockingbird, when she is setting the scene in Maycomb.
If you haven’t read James Baldwin, maybe you should–especially if you enjoy prose writers who are borderline poets.
My review of Go Tell It On The Mountain comes tomorrow.