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The New Yorker: The Lost Giant of American Literature

William Melvin Kelley (1937 - 2017) published four novels and a book of short stories between 1962 and 1970. These works, especially his 1962 debut A Different Drummer were met with great critical praise. Despite this acclaim, Kelley's works are often, and curiously, overlooked today. In this long-form essay published in the January 29, 2018, issue of The New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz describes how she stumbled upon Kelley's work when she ran across a copy of Langston Hughes's Ask Your Mama in a junk store. When she opened the book, she found an inscription, penned by Hughes, gifting the book to Kelley. As Schulz begins to read Kelley's work herself, she comes to the conclusion that the writer is, "seldom read today not just because of the weaknesses of his book but also because of their peculiar, discomfiting strengths." Kelley's works were experimental in nature and centered on themes of race and racism in the U.S. In particular, his works interrogated whiteness and explored questions of how white Americans viewed black Americans. This essay, which is also available in audio format, offers short reviews of Kelley's work along with insights about the writer's life and legacy.
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Date Issued
January 29th, 2018
Date of Scout Publication
February 2nd, 2018
Date Of Record Creation
January 29th, 2018 at 2:00pm
Date Of Record Release
January 30th, 2018 at 12:06pm
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