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The cardinal rule of the writer is to be honest at all costs. Whether his sister is tricking on M street or his father drowns in a bottle of gin every night, the writer has to tell it straight. This almost always involves saying things that people don’t want to hear. Inevitably, there is that moment when the writer stares at his subject and sympathy or weakness corrodes his nerves and he ends up fudging a bit or simply abandoning his subject alltogether. But whenever you read Amiri Baraka’s work or hear him speak, you wonder if that moment has ever come for him. Anyone who has followed his mercurial career knows that if there’s one constant about Baraka, it’s his ability to give it to you straight. The volatile author has managed to piss off conservatives, feminists, black nationalists, and Marxists alike. He specializes in stepping on other people’s toes. In the ’60s, Baraka’s plays rankled feathers all around, but they were also critical components of the Black Arts movement. Perhaps among the works from which he’ll read is the recently reissued Four Black Revolutionary Plays, a testament to the pioneering movement he fomented. Baraka reads from and signs copies of his work at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272; and appears with David Murray’s Fo Deuk Revue at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Black Cat, 1831 14th St. NW. $16. (202) 667-7960. (Ta-Nehisi Coates)