Donald Goines & Iceberg Slim

“[Goines] must certainly have been one of the few black writers in history to be avidly read by junkies, winos and prostitutes, who not only read his books on street corners and buses, but actually discussed them! I observed this myself. Unsurprisingl, he was a junkie, himself, but he had a flair for capturing and interpreting black street culture in all of its richness, excitement, danger and tragedy.” (39) – Low Road by Eddie B. Allen, Jr.

My research on Donald Goines (Goy-nes) is still in the initial stages, but Low Road is filling in a few informational gaps right now. Then again, there are no gaps right now, everything is new. If you’ve browsed my recent reads list to your right, you’ll see that I don’t read street/urban/hip-hop fiction. I’m not knocking the people who write it. Nor am I knocking the people who read it. Do you. As I previously mentioned, I am interested in researching the origins of the genre. The founding authors actually had editors and were slightly creative with their titles, at least I’d like to think so.

There is no possible way that you can investigate the life of Goines or the progression of his writing without the name Iceberg Slim revealing itself. I initially turned my nose up at Slim’s works, me being the ‘square’ that I am and all. But curiosity got the best of me and I ended up previewing the book on Amazon. If you’re reading this thinking that I’ve fallen off the literary wagon (or possibly that I was never on it), then it might be important for me to mention that both Goines and Slim were required reading for a Harvard University’s courses. So what, right? Well, regardless of the Harvard mention, nobody should doubt these two authors significance within the African-American literary canon. You just can’t deny them their place. There are other authors today, on the other hand, whose place should be denied. No need to mention names. I don’t know of any off the top of my head anyway. Again, I don’t read ghetto fiction, but I respect the originators.

Robert Beck, who [died at age] 73, was an anti-hero in the true sense of the word. Unconventional yet compelling, he gave a tragic majesty to the world of the ultimate outsider – the pimp. Born in Chicago, he adopted the street name Iceberg Slim at the age of 19 and became one of those high-earning folk heroes, an urban pimp. After 26 years in the “fast track” he’d had enough… he left behind his life as a pimp and a petty criminal and carved out a career as one of America’s best-selling black authors. His first book, Pimp: The Story of My Life (1969) has sold over two million copies and is still a solid seller.

Pimp paved the way for the spate of “streetwise” fiction that would follow, and from Yardie to Donald Goines they all owe a debt to Iceberg Slim. His books are more than just the road maps that all the young contenders try to follow, they have the all-important stamp of authenticity; drawing their audience to them like a magnet, but alienating writers and other cultural critics with one fell swoop.

…If the subject matter had been different he might have been hailed as a major new black writing talent. Like all his books, Pimp documents the highs and lows of the hustling world with unmerciful candour. It’s a rollercoaster ride whose destination is oblivion, emotional isolation and lonely self-awareness. This gnawing truth is overlooked by those who dismiss him. (Read more…)

Pimp by Slim

For some writers/readers, what I’m saying makes sense and I’m sure it isn’t new. With that being said, and since there is nothing new in Black book news, look inside Pimp: The Story of My Life on Amazon (their excerpt is better than Google). I know I’m late, but hey…

I know, I know…back to work. Happy reading, ya’ll!

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2 thoughts on “Donald Goines & Iceberg Slim

  1. It is sad how Donald Goines and his wife died (they were murdered), Ice berg slim and Goines did bring to reality the harsh reality of street life. For that they deserve some credit, they were in literature of bringing to reality of urban street and ghetto hustle life to the world of book literature) the way the rappers bring urban life to music. Everything has its place.

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