Roger Rosenblatt's book Black Fiction, in attempting to apply literary rather than sociopolitical criteria to its subject, successfully alters the approach taken by most previous studies. As Rosenblatt notes, criticism of Black writing has often served as a pretext for expounding on Black history. Addison Gayle's recent work, for example, judges the value of Black Fiction by overtly political standards, rating each work according to the notions of Black identity which it propounds. Although fiction assuredly springs from political circumstances, its authors react to those circumstances in ways other than ideological, and talking about novels and stories primarily as instruments of ideology circumvents much of the fictional enterprise. Rosenblatt's literary analysis discloses affinities and connections among works of Black Fiction which solely political studies have overlooked or ignored. Writing acceptable criticism of Black Fiction, however, presupposes giving satisfactory answers to a number of questions. First of all, is there a sufficient reason, other than the racial identity of the authors, to group together works by Black authors? Second, how does Black Fiction make itself distinct from other modern fiction with which it is largely contemporaneous? Rosenblatt shows that Black Fiction constitutes a distinct body of writing that has an identifiable, coherent literary tradition. Looking at novels written by Blacks over the last eighty years, he discovers recurring concerns and designs independent of chronology. These structures are thematic, and they spring, not surprisingly, from the central fact that the Black characters in these novels exist in a predominantly White culture, whether they try to conform to that culture or rebel against it. Black Fiction does leave some aesthetic questions open. Rosenblatt's thematic analysis permits considerable objectivity; he even explicitly states that it is not his intention to judge the merit of the various works – yet his reluctance seems misplaced, especially since an attempt to appraise might have led to interesting results. For instance, some of the novels appear to be structurally diffuse. Is this a defect, or are the authors working out of, or trying to forge, a different kind of aesthetic? In addition, the style of some Black novels, like Jean Toomer's Cane, verges on expressionism or surrealism; does this technique provide a counterpoint to the prevalent theme that portrays the fate against which Black heroes are pitted, a theme usually conveyed by more naturalistic modes of expression? In spite of such omissions, what Rosenblatt does include in his discussion makes for an astute and worthwhile study. Black Fiction surveys a wide variety of novels, bringing to our attention in the process some fascinating and little-known works like James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Its argument is tightly constructed, and its forthright, lucid style exemplifies levelheaded and penetrating criticism.