One hears, it seems to me, in the work of all American novelists, even including the mighty Henry James, songs of of the plains, the memory of a virgin continent, mysteriously despoiled, though all dreams were to have become possible here. This did not happen. And the panic, then … comes out of the fact that we are now confronting the awful question of whether or not all our dreams have failed. How have we managed to become what we have, in fact, become? And if we are, as indeed we seem to be, so empty and desperate, what are we to do about it? How shall we put ourselves in touch with reality?
—James Baldwin, 1962