Baraka Looks Back


Tales Of The Out And The Gone (review)
By D. Scot Miller for The San Francisco Weekly

Fans of Afro-surrealism and black futurism have cause to celebrate Amiri Baraka's new book, Tales of the Out and the Gone, a collection of short fiction written between the early 1970s and 2003. The author, essayist, former New Jersey Poet Laureate, and playwright's contribution to avant-garde black art is unparalleled, as is his place at the forefront of the Black Arts Movement. The artist formerly known as LeRoi Jones began as a Beat poet in the 1950s, and he still uses North Beach slang to subvert expectations. "In specific contexts, anything can be Out!" he writes in the book's introduction. "Out of the ordinary. Just as we call some artist, like Thelonious Monk or Vincent Smith, or John Coltrane, Out! Because they were just not where most other people were. So that is aesthetic and social, often both at the same time." Equally well known for his plays (The Dutchman) as he is for his poetry (Somebody Blew Up America, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note) and his essays on music and culture (Blues People), Baraka is also a profound storyteller whose fiction transcends a single genre, moving among science fiction, protest, surreal polemic, and black chant.
Most of the out-and-gone tales have never been published; they reflect the remarkable progression of one of America's most prolific literary antiheroes and a living master of black radical letters.