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The Fire Next Time [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

James Baldwin , Jesse L. Martin
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 29 2008 1602833648 978-1602833647 Unabridged Edition
A Classic Work on Race, Now Available for the First Time on Audio - read by Jesse L. Martin from Law & Order!

At once a powerful evocation of his early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice--to both the individual and America at large--The Fire Next Time, which galvanized the nation in the early days of the civil rights movement, stands as one of the essential works of our literature. It remains as relevant today, widely read in classrooms and lecture halls across America, as it was when first published, 45 years ago.

Presented unabridged on 3 CDs.


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It's shocking how little has changed between the races in this country since 1963, when James Baldwin published this coolly impassioned plea to "end the racial nightmare." The Fire Next Time--even the title is beautiful, resonant, and incendiary. "Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?" Baldwin demands, flicking aside the central race issue of his day and calling instead for full and shared acceptance of the fact that America is and always has been a multiracial society. Without this acceptance, he argues, the nation dooms itself to "sterility and decay" and to eventual destruction at the hands of the oppressed: "The Negroes of this country may never be able to rise to power, but they are very well placed indeed to precipitate chaos and ring down the curtain on the American dream."

Baldwin's seething insights and directives, so disturbing to the white liberals and black moderates of his day, have become the starting point for discussions of American race relations: that debasement and oppression of one people by another is "a recipe for murder"; that "color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality"; that whites can only truly liberate themselves when they liberate blacks, indeed when they "become black" symbolically and spiritually; that blacks and whites "deeply need each other here" in order for America to realize its identity as a nation.

Yet despite its edgy tone and the strong undercurrent of violence, The Fire Next Time is ultimately a hopeful and healing essay. Baldwin ranges far in these hundred pages--from a memoir of his abortive teenage religious awakening in Harlem (an interesting commentary on his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain) to a disturbing encounter with Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. But what binds it all together is the eloquence, intimacy, and controlled urgency of the voice. Baldwin clearly paid in sweat and shame for every word in this text. What's incredible is that he managed to keep his cool. --David Laskin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Speakers or headsets will have to be turned up to listen to Jesse L. Martin's low, slow reading of Baldwin's classic long essay on racism and African-American identity. Martin seeks to be respectful of Baldwin, but he ends up rendering the meaning and the force of his work relatively inert. Pausing in poorly selected places, placing emphasis where little should be placed, Martin does not convey the precision and anger of Baldwin's prose. Instead, Baldwin's book becomes Great Literature, to be intoned and honored, but not truly grasped. Readers with an interest in Baldwin's work will be far better served by reading his prose to themselves than having Martin read it to them. A Vintage paperback.(Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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First Sentence
Dear James: I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful snapshot of America in the 1960's Feb. 25 2002
Format:Paperback
I was born in 1968, six years after The Fire Next Time was published - I lived the period that Baldwin chronicles vicariously through my parents. There are few essayists who equal Baldwin's gift for finding the right phrase to communicate a concept, both intellectually and emotionally. Indeed it's the emotion that Baldwin so effectively weaves into his prose that gives The Fire Next Time its impact. At its core, this essay is a plea.
Baldwin dissects the nature of Black-White relations in the early sixties. He rejects the both the pandering of White liberals and the separatist rhetoric of Black radicals as simplistic; the former as condescending and insincere and the latter as unrealistic and reactionary. The conclusion that he reaches is that Blacks and Whites, whether they realize it or not, are locked in a symbiotic relationship, and destruction for one will mean destruction for both. Put positively, however, the key to their salvations are linked. No one is free until all are free.
Baldwin focuses on two important anecdotes. The first deals with his seduction by the church, his brief career as a child minister, and his subsequent rejection of Christianity. The second deals with an encounter with Elijah Muhammad, then leader of the Nation of Islam. Both show religion as an escape mechanism, and both are told with a convincing immediacy and a sense of candor.
Baldwin's rejection of Christianity appears to be a crucial step in his awakening, and in his rejection of the beliefs that 60's White society expected Black people to hold. The church for Baldwin was an escape mechanism, but having been consoled he soon fled the church, overwhelmed by its hypocrisy and abuses, both historical and current. He concludes "...whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perspective Determines Change Jan. 23 2001
Format:Paperback
Originally published in 1963, James Baldwin's, "The Fire Next Time", is an indicator of what society was like as many viewed it, and forces questions about the degree of change that has happened since he originally wrote the work. The position or the perspective of the reader, will greatly affect how each reader reacts. One issue that I do not believe can be doubted is that this is a powerful, and passionate book, written and published at a time the Author risked all manner of hatred and violence upon him. Published when Mr. Baldwin was 39, the book is not the rose colored view of youth, nor the writing with an entire lifetime to reflect upon. It does not suffer from the first, nor does it fall short do to the latter. It is writing that will elicit powerful emotions by all those who read it.
Great change for the better has taken place. Former Joint Chief Of Staff Colin Powell will soon occupy the most powerful post ever held by a person of color in this Country's History. This was probably unmanageable in 1963. However this example does not represent the state of change in our Society. As an argument for how much change has taken place for the better between the races, a person pointed out to me the march on the anniversary of the sick events in Selma Alabama, and the lack of any violence. My feeling was that if the President Of The United States had made the same march with the same people in 1965, as the President did recently, the violence would surely have been different. The participation of The President and all that surround him tend to minimize Civil Rights abuse in his presence.
There is no definitive measure of how much change has taken place, who is responsible, and who if anyone is to blame.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A work of prophetic power Dec 28 2000
Format:Paperback
Of all of the great authors of the 20th century, James Baldwin was probably closest, both in style and moral authority, to some of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. "The Fire Next Time," first published back in 1963, represents Baldwin at his most impassioned. This book consists of an open letter to Baldwin's nephew, along with an extended autobiographical essay. Throughout the book, Baldwin writes with insight and compassion about the complexities of race in the United States.
Baldwin writes of his spiritual crisis as a teenager--a crisis which led to his career as a youth minister in an African-American Christian church. He writes bitterly of his ultimate disillusionment with the emptiness and hypocrisy he found in the church. Baldwin also writes of his meeting with Elijah Muhammad, the fiery leader of the Nation of Islam sect and mentor to controversial Black leader Malcolm X.
Baldwin's testament is a harsh critique of 20th century Christendom. Reflecting upon the rise of the Nazis in one of the world's most "Christian" nations, Baldwin declares, "From my own point of view, the fact of the Third Reich alone makes obsolete forever any question of Christian superiority, except in technological terms."
"The Fire Next time" is both an illuminating historical document of a turbulent era, and a superb piece of literary craftsmanship. All those interested in the art of nonfiction prose should take time to experience Baldwin's mastery of the medium. But even more importantly, we should all take time to consider his ideas on race, on religion, on prejudice, and on hope.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
James Baldwin is a black gay American novelist. " The fire next time is a collection of his essays" A classic.
Published 5 months ago by Kate
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth is here
As I was reading this book, I had thought some of the same ideas in this book before reading it. The idea of ending racism, but not forgetting it. Read more
Published on March 10 2004 by Dr Vanish
5.0 out of 5 stars A Roadmap of Sorts!
This is a fine essay. Within the comprehension of a clever reader, the content can be an informative guide to warn one of previous and current obstacles which may prove daunting. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by KenJaco
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire Next Time
Searing, insighful work by a genius mind with a
writing style so filled with grace that it evokes tears.
Recognition fills every page. Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2003 by "tmptmp"
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Fire Next Time" Burns The House Down!
Chris Rock (the famous, hilarious comedian) recommended this book in Essence magazine. After reading and subsequently re-reading this powerful book, I am convinced that racism... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2003 by Derrick Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Fire Next Time" Burns The House Down!
Chris Rock (the famous, hilarious comedian) recommended this book in Essence magazine. After reading and subsequently re-reading this powerful book, I am convinced that racism... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2003 by Derrick Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Fire Next Time" Burns Down The House!
Chris Rock (the famous, hilarious comedian) recommended this book in Essence magazine. After reading and subsequently re-reading this powerful book, I am convinced that racism... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2003 by Derrick Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Baldwin-deep thinker
This book would be an excellent choice for required reading for High School juniors and seniors. It deals with the real issue of race in a responsible, intelligent manner, in a way... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2003 by Gordon Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Open Your Eyes
This book was written during the civil rights movement and dealt with the issue of race in America. Through Baldwin's efforts, I feel that the black community made tremendous... Read more
Published on Dec 6 2002 by Alex Thanos
4.0 out of 5 stars Prose for thought
Beautifully written in prose form, Baldwin writes of race relations, and the awakening of one's mind to the differences, perceived or otherwise, of race, color, and their political... Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2001 by Jacob Victory
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