Who was Charles Stevenson Wright, and what did he contribute to American literature?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Considered an important literary talent by the New York Times, Charles Stevenson Wright is the author of three novels: The Messenger, The Wig, and Nothing to Get Alarmed About. His novel, The Messenger, is related in short, "patch-quilt" chapters narrated by Charles Stevenson that range from tales about Wall Street traders to theatrical types to the homosexual and drug underworld.

"Idiosyncratic" and "darkly humorous" and "tragic" are words used to describe his autobiographical novels that depict life in black neighborhoods of the 1960's and 1970's as narrated by a light-skinned black man named Charles Stevenson, a narrator, who is "a minority within a minority"--a bi-racial man who lives with the black minority in the back streets of New York City where both defeat and success exist in "the same marvelous indifference."

As in his fiction, Wright's setting for his non-fictional pieces is also New York City. In his written columns for the Village Voice, Wright describes police brutality, prostitution, drug use, and lackadaisical and corrupt detectives. All these subjects are filtered through Wright's dark looking-glass of racism and dark humor in his pessimistic world. This perspective, according to James Baldwin, paved the way for such writers as Ishmael Reed, Clarence Major, and others "avantgardists."

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rachellopez's profile pic

rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Charles Stevenson Wright  was born in New Franklin, Missouri on June 4th, 1932. Before he became a writer, he served in the U.S. Army in Korea. His most popular novels included The Messenger, The Wig: A Mirror Image, & Absolutely Nothing to Get Alarmed About.

His books after The Messenger had mixed reviews, however it did influence writers such as Ishmael Reed, who said he was "influenced by Wright's experimental fiction." and that The Wig was an underrated novel. Absolutely Nothing to Get Alarmed About was a collection of his nonfictional works. This book also had mixed reviews, but was praised for its journalistic and novelistic qualities.

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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He was born in Missouri, and offered a gloomy and harsh view of the reality.

Notable works include The Messenger, The Wig, which to a degree inspired some writers.

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