The Internet Pores Over James Baldwin’s 1,884-page FBI File

Portrait of James Baldwin, 1955/Photo by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress

Editor's Note:

We’re all books in today’s Daily Blunt, from James Baldwin and the FBI to a literary love letter. Oh! And we’ve a touch of quotable ridiculousness as well.

If you think today’s “Deep State” has got issues, how about taking a look at the file the FBI kept on cherished literary firebrand James Baldwin? A new book plumbs the 1,884-page file for choice bits, reproducing about 100 documents that reveal investigators’ paranoia over the political influence of this outspoken, gay, African American author after it was reported in 1964 that he was working on a “book about the F.B.I. in the South.” As the AV Club notes, this book offers far more insight into the FBI than into Baldwin’s life — particularly when you see how his file stacks up to those of other authors who managed to catch the FBI’s attention: “The file on Henry Miller, the author of more than half a dozen books banned on grounds of obscenity, is just ten pages, counting the cover sheet that just lists his name, while the one on Ray Bradbury repeatedly misidentifies him as ‘Roy.'”

The fix is in: André Aciman’s 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name, is poised to provide us with this year’s most important gay film, with glowing festival reviews like this one rolling in: “One of the most honest reflections of human behaviour I have seen in years,” says Eloise Ross. Anyone who felt like they were filling some kind of quota by giving “Moonlight” so much attention had better watch out: “Call Me By Your Name” is landing in American in late November, which is prime time for award consideration, and comparisons to last year’s Best Picture winner aren’t going to be enough to knock this one out of the running.

Matthew Sullivan is the author of a new novel, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, and if you’re wondering why you should care, this short essay of his hosted by LitHub should do the trick. In it, Sullivan describes how a shared love of books paved the way for the greatest romance of his life, and how his wife Libby’s differing tastes and voracious literary appetite set a pace for their life together that still spices things up two decades later. This is a love letter to reading itself, even if it’s framed around one special person’s appetites: “A dream reader, she reads a lot of books, and she reads them fast.”

The internet has become so overstuffed with inspirational quotes from your favorite authors that have become mangled or misattributed along the way — why not just generate your own? InspiroBot randomly generates chunks of text that might seem profound as long as you don’t read them too closely, like “Personalize powerfulness. Brutalize excellence. Totalize awesomeness.” Each new quote is projected over a Pinterest-ready background image for convenient sharing. If your friends don’t get the joke, reassure them with a comforting maxim like “A tree is a hug on vacation.”