Have Words–Will Write 'Em

On Books, Writers, Most Things Written, Including My Light Verse.

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s “Open Water”

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And although the protagonist (and presumably Nelson) is a fan of the writer Zadie Smith and her novel, NW set in north-west London, it is James Baldwin who is the character’s and the author’s greatest inspiration. He even calls Baldwin Jimmy when he quotes from Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son: “I want to be an honest man and a good writer.” It’s a sentence that Nelson and his character repeat twice. Real-life similarities between author and character are sometimes frowned upon as artistic weakness, but the connection here, whether feeling or fact, is valid and powerful.

You can read my review of Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water in The Brooklyn Rail by clicking the image below.

You can buy Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

May 4th, 2021 at 9:15 pm