“Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin — “The most famous jazz short story ever written”

December 6th, 2013

 

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In the introduction to The Jazz Fiction Anthology, editors Sascha Feinstein and David Rife cite James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” as “the most famous jazz short story ever written,” and is pointed to by Baldwin biographer David Leeming as “the prologue to a dominant fictional motif in the overall Baldwin story, the relationship between two brothers that takes much of its energy from the close relationship between James and [brother] David Baldwin.” The story, originally published in Partisan Review in 1957, centers on the narrator’s need to, in Leeming’s words, “save his brother [Sonny] from the precariousness of his life as an artist.” Sonny, in turn, finds his voice by playing bebop in the Village, which results, according to Leeming, in the narrator seeing “that the artist, especially the black artist, is a prophet of freedom, not only of freedom for his own race but of freedom for all those suffocating under the repressive blanket of emotional safety and innocence.”

It is a great Baldwin story, and one you can read in its entirety by clicking here.

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A short biography of James Baldwin

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