|Born||New York City, New York|
|Alma mater||University of Rochester,
State University of New York at Buffalo
|Subject||Theater, Art, American business history|
Baldwin earned a B.A. in English from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in Modern American Poetry from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was the editor of The Niagara Magazine between 1974 and 1982, and worked in fundraising for the New York Public Library between 1984 and 1989. He was the director of the National Book Foundation from its founding in 1989 until his resignation in 2003.
Themes in writings
Baldwin describes a common thread in some of his work as follows:
"...my first two subjects were William Carlos Williams, the poet and physician and probably, you could say, the precursor of--of modern poetry in America today. And the second subject was Man Ray, who was the photographer and painter who was also a great American figure. And I viewed Man Ray as a quintessential modernist figure. And what I did was if--William Carlos Williams, I was talking about a genre and the history of a genre. And then I decided the most important thing after that would be to try to define a period as a whole, the modern period as a whole, so Man Ray to me was the metaphor for the modernist period in art."
"And then I thought, 'Well, I've dealt with two highly creative individuals, and I've explored their imaginations.' But I wanted to make the point that creativity and imagination are not the sole province of the artist, the--the humanist thinker. I wanted to show that invention, which was actually defined as an art in Edison's time--it was actually called the art of invention. I wanted to show that the inventive process, the creative process, they all stem from the--the--the deepest core of the imagination in--in a human being, and I wanted to connect all those creative processes in the context of an American vision."
"And if you look at the time frame for these three books--William Carlos Williams, Man Ray, Thomas Edison--they all begin sort of in the last vestiges of the industrial era and the romantic era in culture and they pass through the cataclysm of the wars and they end up sort of on the threshold of--of our day. And so I do think they all connect, even though on first blush it is--it's hard to see the connection, but I think there is a connection."