I take an author, study his works carefully, go into his life with the same thoroughness, follow the ways the facts of his life are related to the fiction he created. I have done this with Dostoievsky, Chekhov, Conrad, Turgeniev. -- RICHARD WRIGHT, Daily Worker interview ( December 13, 1938)
Eliot, Stein, Joyce, Proust, Hemingway, and Anderson; Gorky, Barbusse, Nexo and Jack London no less than the folklore of the Negro himself should form the heritage of the Negro writer. Every iota of gain in human thought and sensibility should be ready grist for his mill, no matter how far-fetched they may seem in their immediate implications.
-- RICHARD WRIGHT, "Blueprint for Negro Writing" ( 1937)
DALPH ELLISON'S insistence on the dual tradition of the Afro- American writer is well-known; he has even been attacked by black nationalists for insisting too much on his indebtedness to the European/ White American body of literature, to the detriment of the black folk cultural heritage. Richard Wright, on the other hand, has until recently often been considered as a passionate, spontaneous, and demonic novelist, writing from his inner self to the detriment of any close study of his literary parentage. Yet a closer look reveals not only that he was a much more sophisticated literary artisan than one commonly thinks but that he was, like Ellison, perfectly aware of this dual heritage of the black writer in America.
In order to gain an understanding of the development of Richard Wright as a major novelist of the twentieth century and also of the literary tradition of the Afro-American novel in general, precise knowledge of just what books Wright was reading during his formative years is very beneficial. Of course, he himself gave several clues in Black Boy1 and in a number of articles and interviews. More recently, Margaret Walker has beautifully written of her formative literary relationship with Wright in