Richard Wright: Books and Writers

Richard Wright: Books and Writers

Richard Wright: Books and Writers

Richard Wright: Books and Writers


A bibliography of Wright's library, this will serve as the key to understanding the development, the philosophies, & the aesthetics of this greatest of black American writers.


If a writer's library and readings represent an invaluable guide to an understanding of the development of ideology and style, this is even truer in the case of a largely self-taught writer such as Richard Wright. In addition, in Wright's education, what Harold Bloom has defined as "the anxiety of influence" was largely balanced and partly offset by the truly liberating effect of the influences he welcomed.

Black Boy still forcibly reminds us that a Negro youngster was barred from borrowing books for his own use from the Memphis Public Library in 1925 and that Wright himself had to forge notes in order to request volumes supposedly for the use of one of his fellow employees.

That books always were "living things" and "companions" to Wright is evidenced by his many enthusiastic references to authors and books in his own writings. Probably in the early forties, he even drafted a brief outline for a comical sketch, called "The Battle of the Books," which shows that dead and living authors were in his mind the avatars of an ongoing intellectual exchange or fight:

The Battle of the Books

Idea for scenes:

Huge books with authors standing beside them, beckoning for readers to come in; we see Shakespeare, Dante, Machiavelli, etc., beckoning to Hemingway. And a young girl dances out to the books; she is invited into each one as each author sings a song. Then a soldier sets up an Army book and starts singing the Marine song, or the Infantry song, or the Navy song. The girl runs to him. Dostoievsky does a Russian dance beside Crime and Punishment.

Shakespeare simmers and acts like a homo.

Hemingway roars and beats his chest. Hitler growls beside Mein Kampf . . .

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