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Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964 
 
  
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Product Details 
  
 
Hardcover 
400 pages 
Knopf 
Published 2001 
  
Amazon.com 
  
When their correspondence began in 1925, Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was the nation's leading Caucasian enthusiast for African American culture, and Langston Hughes (1902-67) was a struggling poet who lived with his mother in Washington, D.C., and plaintively closed one letter, "Remember me to Harlem." Over the four-decade-long friendship that's captured engagingly in these warm, funny letters, Hughes would become more famous, and Van Vechten less so, but their mutual affection and respect only would deepen. Editor Emily Bernard, a professor at Smith College, sensibly decided to include only a fraction of the letters that the pair exchanged, but to print those in their entirety, so that readers might get a vivid sense of each man's personality. Van Vechten is lighthearted, flirtatious, gossipy, effusive in his appreciation for Hughes' writing, and frank when he finds it not to his taste. Despite his unflinching commitment to civil rights, he's considerably less political than Hughes, whose equally witty correspondence has an underlying seriousness that's commensurate with a personal history that's far more turbulent and painful than that of his affluent friend. They share a dislike for "uplift-the-race" sanctimoniousness and a zest for African American folk culture; their letters are rife with references to the music of Bessie Smith and other great blues singers, as well as to the many Harlem Renaissance artists who were their personal acquaintances. The correspondence also provides a sustained chronicle of the working writer's life: they swap news of assignments and story ideas; Van Vechten generously makes his book-publishing and magazine contacts available to Hughes; and the poet loyally defends his friend's controversial novel, Nigger Heaven, against its numerous detractors. Helpfully, everyone is identified in Bernard's copious footnotes, which make this a handy reference work, as well as a delightful record of an extraordinary relationship between two uniquely gifted figures in American letters. --Wendy Smith  
  
 
  
From Publishers Weekly 
  
As the Harlem Renaissance unfolded in the 1920s, few were closer to its hub than the black poet and playwright Langston Hughes and his white friend and mentor, the writer, photographer and patron of the arts Carl Van Vechten. They met in 1924, as Hughes was first exploding into literary celebrity, and quickly became friends and correspondents; between them, they knew everyone of note among Harlem's cultural figures. Marked by a shared irreverence and taste for the good life, their correspondence... read more  
  
 
  
Book Description 
  
These engaging and wonderfully alive letters paint an intimate portrait of two of the most important and influential figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Carl Van Vechten--older, established, and white--was at first a mentor to the younger, gifted, and black Langston Hughes. But the relationship quickly grew into a great friendship--and for nearly four decades the two men wrote to each other expressively and constantly. 
  
 
  
They discussed literature and publishing. They exchanged favorite blues lyrics ("So now I know what Bessie Smith really meant by 'Thirty days in jail With ma back turned to de wall,'" Hughes wrote Van Vechten after a stay in a Cleveland jail on trumped-up charges). They traded stories about the hottest parties and the wildest speakeasies. They argued politics. They gossiped about the people they knew in common--James Baldwin, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, H. L. Mencken. They wrote from near (of racism in Scottsboro) and far (of dancing in Cuba and trekking across the Soviet Union), and always with playfulness and mutual affection. 
  
 
  
Today Van Vechten is a controversial figure; some consider him exploitative, at best peripheral to the Harlem Renaissance--or, indeed, as the author of the novel Nigger Heaven, a blemish upon it, and upon Hughes by association. The letters tell a different, more subtle and complex story: Van Vechten did, in fact, help Hughes (and many other young black writers) to get published; Hughes
 
  
 
  

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Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Critical Assessment (Studies in African American History and Culture) 
  
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The Passionate Observer: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten 
  
Keith F. Davis; Van Vechten (Photographer); & Hallmark Cards Inc.
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Slumming in New York: From the Waterfront to Mythic Harlem 
  
Robert Dowling (Author)
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Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925-1964 
  
Langston Hughes; Van Vechten; & Emily Bernard (Editor)
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Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten 
  
Langston Hughes; Van Vechten; & Emily Bernard (Editor)
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A Bibliography of the Work of Carl Van Vechten 
  
Bruce Kellner
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The Splendid Drunken Twenties: Selections from the Daybooks, 1922-1930 
  
Van Vechten; & Bruce Kellner (Editor)
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Nigger Heaven 
  
Van Vechten; & Kathleen Pfeiffer (Introduction)
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The Tiger in the House 
  
Carl Van Vechten
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Flashes of Genius: African American Portraits by Carl Van Vechten: A Book of Postcards 
  
Carl Van Vechten
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