PanBookforum... if you crave a \'fresh\' opinion, feel free to open the New York Times—on class, read David Brooks; on gender, read Bari Weiss. And on race, read Thomas Chatterton Williams ... if Losing My Cool had dreamed aloud about a splendid new attitude for black people, his new book—Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, also a memoir—proclaims, with intriguing relief, that the thing we call \'black America\' does not, in fact, exist ... In both works, a catastrophic delusion is debunked by our gallant hero. This is the swashbuckling intellectual style of a man born to be Incoherent; after all, Williams was raised by an \'anti-tribal\' family that \'did not belong to any collectives,\' so his thought is freer and fresher than ours ... Vast chasms in argumentation are spanned by the rickety bridges of TED Talk prose ... Williams has an appetite for aphorism. He opts for a kind of ideological dim sum, plucking thinkers from the sundry platters of politics Left and Right ... in Self-Portrait, class is a stick to beat race with. It brutally trumps identity claims (and is not itself the basis for a thorough critique) ... What he cannot grasp is that any effective challenge to white hegemony would have to take place not in the perfumed realm of private choices and elective affinities, but on the harsh terrain of real life ... The omission reveals the fantasy that throbs beneath this memoir: that race can be yanked from the clanging machinery in which it’s lodged ... Williams attempts to leap through his little trapdoor in history ... What is this book: cynicism or foolishness? A flash of contrarian novelty in a media industry tickled by its own fecklessness—or proof of a truly boundless naïveté?
Jeffrey C. Stewart
MixedThe New Yorker...Stewart’s biography aims to heave Locke out of obscurity and prop him next to the reputations he launched. At more than nine hundred pages, it’s a thudding, shapeless text, despotic in its pedantry and exhausting in its zeal, marked by excruciating attention to the most minuscule irrelevances. This is touching—and strangely fitting. Stewart’s research arrives at a kind of Lockean intensity. But even Stewart’s vigor falters as Locke’s own scholarly energies start to wane ... The New Negro was a hero, a fetish, a polemical posture—and a blurry portrait of a flinching soul. But Locke took his place, at last, in the history he wished to redeem.