This is still the most comprehensive and detailed account of the writer’s life and works. Leeming worked closely with Baldwin as an assistant and secretary after first meeting him in Istanbul.
I love this book, for it was my introduction to Baldwin and his life as an exile and one of the most powerful social and cultural critics of twentieth-century America. It’s written accessibly—the life-story narrative flows easily and one feels the author’s compassion for and understanding of the writer’s evolution, process, as well as his specific works.
It has taught me that the best biographies both reveal and conceal their authors’ personal investment in their subject and their own life stories. And that the best biographers must skillfully and passionately play with both.
Years ago when I first read it, it was helpful in overcoming my initial terror as an immigrant from the Other Europe, the terror that I could never write well about an author whose nationality, mother tongue, race, gender, and class I didn’t share. My award-winning books have proven me wrong!