Friday, January 27, 2017

Fridays Forgotten Books, January 27, 2017

Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin

A few weeks back, I think it was Paul Auster on BY THE BOOKS in the NYT, named James Baldwin as one of the most talented American writers. Asked to name the books on his nightstand: Just two — the Library of America editions of James Baldwin’s “Collected Essays” and “Early Novels and Stories.” Here's what Auster said. "Until recently, I hadn’t read any Baldwin since high school (a long time ago, given that I graduated in 1965), and because the novel I was working on was mostly set in the ’50s and ’60s, I dutifully plunged in to have another look. Duty quickly turned into pleasure, awe, and admiration. Baldwin is a remarkable writer on both fronts, fiction and nonfiction, and I would rank him among America’s 20th-century greats. Not just for his boldness and courage, not just for his enormous emotional range (from boiling anger to the most exquisite tenderness), but for the quality of the writing itself, the chiseled grace of his sentences. Baldwin’s prose is what I would call “classical American,” in the same sense that Thoreau is classical, and at his best I believe Baldwin is fully equal to Thoreau at his best. Oddly enough, I finished reading the two books more than a year ago, but they’re still on my night stand. I can’t say why — I just like having them there. They comfort me.

And this is a terrific synopsis of what I found in my first Baldwin novel, Giovanni's Room. It is the story of a young man who's fighting off his natural inclination to accept himself as gay. He has a girl he has been treating quite badly because he has no desire for her. And he also has a boy, Giovanni, who he is also treating badly because he doesn't want to desire him.  This book looks at a few weeks he spends in Paris, mostly in Giovanni's room. Giovanni is a bartender whose heart is breaking at the narrator's hand. 
This was an easy book to read because the writing is so gorgeous, but a hard book to read when you remember what being gay was like in 1958. In the end, this book seems to be about shame. When society makes something natural a shameful thing, it does us a great injustice. I hope we are not returning to this. But I fear we are.

Sergio Angelini, FROZEN CHARLOTTE, Alex Bell
Yvette Banek, ESCAPE, Philip Macdonald
Joe Barone, THE WOMAN WALKED INTO THE SEA, Mark Douglas Home
Les Blatt, KEEPER OF THE KEYS, Earl Der Biggers
Bill Crider, FILE ON A MISSING REDHEAD, Lou Cameron
Martin Edwards, WHO'S CALLING? Helen McCloy
Richard Horton, CHAMPION'S CHOICE, John R. Tunis
Jerry House, MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! Harry Harrison
Margot Kinberg, WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, Dorothy Fowler 
Rob Kitchin, TALKING TO THE DEAD, Harry Bingham 
Kate Laity, PEOPLE WHO KNOCK ON THE DOOR, Patricia Highsmith
B.V. Lawson, SHROUD OF CANVAS, Isobel Mary Lambot
Evan Lewis,  KING KONG V. TARZAN, Will Murray 
Steve Lewis, PERISH TWICE, Robert Parker
Todd Mason, THE DEVIL HIS DUE edited by Douglas Hill, UNTHREATENED BY THE MORNING LIGHT by Karl Edward Wagner

J.F. Norris, THE GREENSONE GRIFFINS, Glaydy Mitchell
Matthew Paust. EMOTION AS MEANING, Keith M. Opdahl
James Reasoner, KI-GOR AND THE SECRET LEGIONS OF SIMBA,  John Peter Drummond
Gerard Saylor, CRIMINAL: LAWLESS, Brubaker and Phillips
Kerrie Smith, A CALAMITOUS CHINESE KILLING, Shamini Flint 
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, TRIAL BY FURY, Craig Rice


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Fab collection today - thanks for including our post at Fedora Patti. My niece will be so impressed :)

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! Martin has one up...and my link seems to be dead....I need to get back to Baldwin, myself...NOBODY KNOES MY NAME was a lot of years ago.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Thanks, Patti. I haven't read Baldwin since the early 70s but GIOVANNI'S ROOM sounds like one I need to try.

K. A. Laity said...


J F Norris said...

Mine's up now:

The Greenstone Griffins by Gladys Mitchell

Thanks for all you do, Patti!

Yvette said...

I too read that recommendation by Paul Auster re: James Baldwin, Patti. I remembered that I'd read GIOVANNI'S ROOM in the early 1960's as well. I'm thinking of seeing what my library has of Baldwin's work.

TracyK said...

You have reminded me I need to read something by James Baldwin. Thanks for including my link and gathering all of the links.

Chris said...

Baldwin's pretty good. He's no Chester Himes, but who is?

Kidding (on the square).

pattinase (abbott) said...

I need to read more (of both).

Anonymous said...

I need to read Baldwin again - Thanks for the reminder.

Mathew Paust said...

In the 60s I read Another Country first, then Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, and (I believe last) Giovanni's Room--everything by Baldwin I could find then. I was struck and held mostly by the exquisite craftsmanship and powerful voice. I don't believe now I "got" Giovanni's Room beyond simply knowing it was about being gay, and feeling a tad uncomfortable reading it. It's high time to read it again. Many thanks, Patti.