"Selected Letters of Langston Hughes"

Feb 27, 2015

On this penultimate day of Black History Month, we're talking about the life and work of one of our greatest African American writers, Langston Hughes (1902-1967), the prolific and influential poet, activist, novelist, memoirist, playwright, and newspaper columnist. Our guest on ST is David Roessel, one of the editors of the recently published "Selected Letters of Langston Hughes" (Knopf). This hefty, decade-by-decade, and carefully assembled volume is the first comprehensive selection of the correspondence of Hughes, the iconic author of such classic poems as "I, Too, Sing America," "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "A Dream Deferred," and "My People." As book critic Dwight Garner noted of this new book in The New York Times: "[It's] an indelible historical document. It traces Hughes's career from the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s...through to the arrival into the American consciousness of black nationalist firebrands like Amiri Baraka in the 1960s.... 'Selected Letters of Langston Hughes' is a beautifully made book, carefully edited. The footnotes, by [Arnold] Rampersad and David Roessel, are so incisive that they're nearly a book of their own. Your eye flickers toward them, the way it does to the simultaneous translation tickers at the opera, lest you miss something vital.... There's real feeling and serious history here."