Tag Archives: James Baldwin

Links and Hijinks: Mad Men “origins”, “new” James Baldwin, True Blood’s Lafayette, & More Mel…

{Just a few tidbits til tomorrow…}

  • Mad Mad Mad Mad (Men) World: Next Sunday’s the day we find out what’s up with Don Draper and the gang on Mad Men…I certainly cannot wait to see what’s up a year after last year’s stunning finale. So, in honor of that return, here’s a question: is the hit show based on a 60s comic strip that no one remembers? Vanity Fair seems, jokingly,  to think so
  • New Blood: Does Nelsan Ellis, the great young, Julliard-trained actor who plays the incredible and ground-breaking character Lafayette on the terribly retrogressive (yet oddly compelling) True Blood, suffer from the typical “scared-to-play-gay” syndrome? Sure seems that way in this otherwise cute conversation between him and the crazy hot Kevin Alejandro (who I’m sorta, um, gaga for—you see what I did there?) on the set of the HBO show:

  • Sweet Baby James: And last but TRULY not least: At coffee with the calm, crazy-cool Tufts professor Christina Sharpe the other day, we agreed on the greatness that is Mr James Baldwin, chatting about his famous response to Norman Mailer with the brilliant essay “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy”—read it YESTERDAY if you’ve never done so; you can find it in this book or this one. I walked away from that coffee date not even knowing that there’s a new collection of James’ uncollected writings, The Cross of Redemption, edited and with an intro by author Randall Kenan, being published in August! (I won’t tell you about the cartwheels I was doing about this when the guys showed up to put in my air conditioner the other day; but it was more fun than embarrassing.) If you’re a Baldwin compleatist like me, this is like Manna from wherever Heaven is, and I can’t wait to get my copy. It’ll go on the shelf next to the French import of Harlem Quartet, the final Baldwin “novel” Professor Gates gave me (which has only been published in France—hopefully that’ll see the light of an American day soon…more on that in a later post…)

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The SCOTT TOPICS™ Mail Bag: Writing Advice, VIBE, & What I’m reading these days…

{I get a lot of email from readers—of VIBE, of HUNG, of the blog—and many of the questions I get in them overlap. I do try to get back to everyone who writes, but sometimes things, as you kn0w, get crazy—doesn’t help that I’m a full-time grad student now! So I decided to just answer a bunch of the questions I’ve gotten right here at SCOTT TOPICS™, that way I answer my mail, but also provide answers to questions others might have but haven’t gotten around to writing. Hope these answer some of your questions…!}

“Can you recommend a really good book on learning to write?” ~ T.K., Seattle

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever read any “how-to write” books! I used to love to read Writer’s Digest magazine, but that was mainly to read the interviews with writers and the invaluable business-y stuff that they publish. Oh, I did really like Stephen King’s On Writing, but that might be because I was his biggest fan from around 1979 til about 1993. He makes some good points about style and the writer’s life, but I don’t know what “lessons” I got from it per se.

That said, if I was forced to name the books that “taught” me how to write, I’d probably say these:

Anything by Joan Didion or James Baldwin or Truman Capote (for both journalistic and creative style and clarity)

Anything by Judy Blume or John Irving (for emotional truth)

Anything by Jackie Collins or Stephen King or Ross McDonald (for ace plotting and storytelling acumen)

Anything by Toni Morrison or Charles Chesnutt (for ambition)

In other words, I guess what I’m saying is, to be a good writer, I had to be a good reader. I had to pay close attention to the things that made me want to re-read them, to the books and writers who made me want to put them down and go straight to the pen or typewriter or computer. I also learned to listen to the written voice of writers,  to the rhythm of their prose, and how that rhythm informed the language to create something wonderful on the page.

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