10 April 2017

Have a morning cigarette with James Baldwin

Posted by Megan Marsh

There are lots of good articles around at the moment which make persuasive and correct arguments for why you should be reading James Baldwin. Or listening to him in conversation with Malcolm X, for example, or watching the new documentary which is excellent by all accounts.

This is all good advice! But for those who are already fans of Baldwin, or are seeking a more laid-back introduction: here is a video of him waking up, getting out of bed and having a cigarette in his underwear. He's young and in Istanbul. Note that there's no sheet on the mattress, but he smokes using a fancy cigarette holder. If you don't find this delightful I don't know who you are.

There are photographs from this time too. Here he is, cooking for friends. Sipping a little cup of tea. Sitting on the railing of a balcony with an empty glass of wine. Don't these pictures make you feel in good company? James Baldwin is good company, is what I'm saying, and reading him never feels like you are being addressed from any sort of distance: in everything he writes he is warm, familiar and strikingly present, after all this time.