Langston Hughes: The Contemporary Reviews

Article excerpt

Tish Dace, ed. Langston Hughes: The Contemporary Reviews. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. 766 pp. $125.00.

A compilation of book reviews on the major works of Langston Hughes is a labyrinthine undertaking. Tish Dace devoted sixteen years of research to such an omnibus. Her vast collection includes reprints of over seven hundred pieces covering twenty-eight of Hughes's books of poetry and prose from 1926 until his death in 1967. His main works appear in the volume chronologically, each with a section of reprinted reviews and a supplementary checklist. An appendix highlights references to most of his pamphlets, limited editions, series, translations, anthologies, and scripts.

It would be too much to expect of one editor to collect reviews of all the author's sixty plus published titles and the many scripts produced during his forty-six-year career. Langston Hughes: The Contemporary Reviews provides in one volume a representative record from numerous periodicals, including some not previously listed in bibliographies.

Dace located much of the material in Hughes's scrapbooks and clippings at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, then checked and documented sources in various repositories, newspapers, and magazines. Her forty-five-page introduction offers a useful and historical overview of the mixed critical reception given Hughes by black and white reviewers over four decades. The content is of value to students, scholars, bibliophiles, and general readers interested in reassessing his reputation in the context of American cultural life in the twentieth century and beyond. However, readers seeking reprints or citations of contemporary essays about him in journals or books will not find them in this compilation. It features reviews only--from American publications. The preface notes that "the reviews reprinted or cited here include only those published in the United States, with two notable exceptions, both from English-language periodicals published in Mexico." The absence of British and other foreign review references may disappoint scholars interested in cross-cultural and comparative literary studies on Hughes, whose legacy for many is the international writer, traveler, and translator.

I am reluctant to criticize the shortcomings of a book that required so much dedication, effort, and time. …


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