About Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs (LOA #284)
In his 1970 classic The Omni-Americans, Albert Murray (1916–2013) took aim at protest writers and social scientists who accentuated the “pathology” of race in American life. Against narratives of marginalization and victimhood, Murray argued that black art and culture, particularly jazz and blues, stand at the very headwaters of the American mainstream, and that much of what is best in American art embodies the “blues-hero tradition”— a heritage of grace, wit, and inspired improvisation in the face of adversity. Murray went on to refine these ideas in The Blue Devils of Nada and From the Briarpatch File, and all three landmark collections of essays are gathered here for the first time, together with Murray’s memoir South to a Very Old Place, his brilliant lecture series The Hero and the Blues, his masterpiece of jazz criticism Stomping the Blues, and eight previously uncollected pieces.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
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“Albert Murray’s best nonfiction has been gathered in a plump and welcome volume from the Library of America. . . . His writing about racism can prickle your skin. . . . To paraphrase Murray’s praise of Ellison’s Invisible Man, reading this book is like watching someone take a 12-bar blues song and score it for a full orchestra.” — Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Murray — renaissance man, blues philosopher, resolute non-victim — was almost criminally overlooked in the previous century. Perhaps this was because he was constitutionally incapable of suffering fools of any complexion and insisted on pointing out the most elemental truths: ‘The United States is in actuality not a nation of black people and white people. It is a nation of multicolored people,’ Murray notes in his masterpiece, The Omni-Americans. We are in desperate need of such lucidity. If the arc of the intellectual universe also bends towards justice, then the Library of America’s canonization will resituate Murray alongside contemporaries James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison.” —New York Magazine “100 Best Books of the Twentieth Century”