The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2

By Arnold Rampersad | Go to book overview

9

OUT FROM UNDER
1953 to 1956

Well, the poor old Negro's
Had a hard, hard time—
But he still ain't bowed his head.
Yes, the poor old Negro's
Had a hard, hard time—
Yet he sure ain't dead....

"Here to Stay," 1953

IN THE WEEKS following his appearance before Joseph McCarthy's committee, Langston looked anxiously for signs of public disapproval. None of any consequence came. Somewhat reassured, but feeling the strain of his ordeal, he looked for a vacation. A train ride across the continent to California, with two or three weeks passed pleasantly on the Pacific coast among old friends, including Noël Sullivan at Hollow Hills Farm, seemed his best bet. "I'm homesick for your valley," he had sighed to Sullivan at Christmas. Only the usual grim state of his finances barred Langston from leaving at once.

Hoping for a windfall with the heralded appearance in May of Simple Takes a Wife from Simon and Schuster, Langston was teased by the news that the Book-of-the-Month Club might offer the work as a main choice to its many members. With Henry Seidel Canby, a selector, championing it as "an informal masterpiece worthy with a little compression of a long life in American literature," Simple Takes a Wife was among the final three works considered. To Langston's disappointment, however, it was passed over in the end.

Nevertheless, praise of the book verged on the extravagant. In the New York Times Book Review, Carl Van Vechten, in hailing the second Simple volume as "more brilliant, more skillfully written, funnier, and perhaps a shade more tragic than its predecessor," dubbed him "the Molière of Harlem." The veteran literary critic Ben Lehman of the University of California saw Hughes's art in Simple as remarkably like that of Mark Twain. ("I'd not thought of it before myself," Langston offered. "But am glad if there's something of the same quality there, naturally.") In Oklahoma, the Tulsa World compared him favorably to Damon Runyon. To the Virginia Kirkus review service, Langston

-223-

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The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Life of Langston Hughes - I Dream a World *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Still Here 1941 3
  • 2 - Jim Crow''s Last Stand 1941 To 1943 32
  • 3 - Simple Speaks His Mind 1943 To 1944 61
  • 4 - Third Degree 1944 To 1945 88
  • 5 - Street Scene 1945 To 1947 108
  • 6 - Heart on the Wall 1947 To 1948 128
  • 7 - On Solid Ground 1948 To 1950 146
  • 8 - In Warm Manure 1951 To 1953 189
  • 9 - Out from under 1953 To 1956 223
  • 10 - Making Hay 1957 To 1958 263
  • 11 - You Are the World 1958 To 1960 288
  • 12 - Ask Your Mama! 1960 To 1961 314
  • 13 - In Gospel Glory 1961 To 1963 341
  • 14 - Blues for Mister Backlash 1963 To 1965 364
  • 15 - Final Call 1965 To 1966 386
  • 16 - Do Nothing till You Hear from Me 1966 To 1967 404
  • Afterword 426
  • Abbreviations 436
  • Notes 437
  • Acknowledgments 493
  • Index 499
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