You need to read this 321-word sentence written by the great James Baldwin.

Written by Cole Schafer

James Baldwin’s essay, Nothing Personal, opens with two short sentences…


I used to distract myself, some mornings before I got out of bed, by pressing the television remote control gadget from one channel to another.


This may be the only way to watch TV: I certainly saw some remarkable sights.

Short, sweet and to the point –– this pair acts as a springboard that launches the reader into a third, much longer sentence, a 321-word sentence, that reads like a spoken word poem and criticizes advertising, Hollywood and America’s obsession with youth…

*James Baldwin is typing now*

“Blondes and brunettes and, possibly, redheads––my screen was colorless–– washing their hair, relentlessly smiling, teeth cleaming like the grillwork of automobiles, breasts firmly, chillingly encased–– packaged as it were––and brilliantly uplifted, forever all sagging corrected, forever, all middle age bulge––defeated, eyes as senuous and mysterious as jelly beans, lips covered with cellophane, hair sprayed to the consistency of aluminum, girdles forbidden to slide up, stockings defeated in the subversive tendencies to slide down, to tum crooked, to snag, to run, to tear, hands prevented from aging by incredibly soft detergents, fingernails forbidden to break by superbly smooth enamels, teeth forbidden to decay by mysterious chemical formulas, all conceivably body odor, under no matter what contingency, prevented for twenty-four hours of every day, forever and forever and forever, children’s bones knit strong by the foresight of vast bakeries, tobacco robbed of any harmful effects by the addition of mind, the removal of nicotine, the presence of filters and the length of the cigarette, tires which cannot betray you, automobiles which will make you feel proud, doors which cannont slam on those precious fingers or fingernails, diagrams illustrating––proving––how swiftly imperminent pain can be driven away, square-jawed youngsters dancing, other square-jawed youngers armed with guitars, or backed by bands, howling; all of this––and so much more––puntuated by the roar of great automobiles, overtaking gangsters, the spatter of tommy-guns mowing them down, the rise of the organ as the Heroine braces herself to Tell All, the moving smile of the houswwife who has just won a fortune in metal and crockery; news––news?––from where?––dropping into this sea with the alertness and irrelevancy of pebbles, sex wearing an aspect so implacably dispirting that even masturbation (by no means mutual) seems one of the possibilities that vanished in Eden, and murder one’s last, be hope––sex of an appaling coyness, often in the form of a prophylactic cigarette being extended by the virile male toward the aluminum and callophane girl.”

If it’s nothing personal, why did I take it personally?

I think it’s in good practice to lean into the writings, conversations and people that leave you feeling triggered.

After reading this excerpt, I was at the same time wildly impressed with Baldwin’s prose and… defensive.

I work in advertising, after all.

By Cole Schafer.