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Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

by James Baldwin

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
great, its james baldwin. nothing more to say. ( )
  andreancarr | Oct 27, 2015 |
great, its james baldwin. nothing more to say. ( )
  andreancarr | Oct 27, 2015 |
A magnificent coming-of age novel! Not only is it beautifully written, but it's packed with fascinating, but flawed, characters, and numerous themes, several stepped in brutality. I couldn't stop myself from reading it quickly, though I longed to ponder and pour over so many incredibly written passages. This begs for a reread. ( )
  whymaggiemay | May 25, 2015 |
No doubt, James Baldwin had a mastery of the English language. There is a lilt to his words that echoes the classics of literature. With its religious theme, Go Tell It on the Mountain nearly comes across seamlessly as another testament of the Bible. I believe this was Baldwin's intention, but if not he succeeded without trying. Though the tone emulates the best of the Biblical narrative, it rarely gets bogged down by the parts that are best skimmed. There is poetry in these pages, though the format is strictly narrative.

As a reader, however, my attention was lost in the massive section of backstory placed in the middle of the story; backstory that takes up over half of the entire novel. Now, I'm not a flashback hater. I have no issue with backstory if it is implemented well. But the backstory in Go Tell It on the Mountain goes on much too long and isn't completely necessary for the story of young John. Sure, it gives some indication of what John was born into and how he's been shaped, but it doesn't forward his story; it only sets the foundation. The story of John is packed so deeply in the story of his family and buried beneath Biblical allegory that I felt, in the end, I didn't know John. And that's unfortunate because John seemed like he might have been an interesting individual.

I hate not enjoying a classic, especially one with so much of importance to say, but I failed to find the story here. Go Tell It on the Mountain is a beautiful hymn that is likely a prelude to a compilation of many wonderful works. I recognize Baldwin's talent, but I think he spent too much time in the past with this novel. I want to see a more forward-thinking Baldwin. Judging by his life, I know he had it in him; I just need to find the work that exemplifies this character. ( )
  chrisblocker | May 5, 2015 |
Go Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James Baldwin never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a strict Baptist minister. Go Tell It on the Mountain mainly follows the character John Grimes (who is the autobiographical character in the novel) but really shifts focus to other characters, to allow the exploration of John’s immediate family.

It took James Baldwin ten years to write Go Tell It on the Mountain and he has often stated that it was not a book he wanted to write but a book he felt he had to get out of his system before he would write anything else. This is a semi-autobiographical novel that focuses mainly of the hypocrisy within the community. James Baldwin’s stepfather was a minister and the way he acted in church was vastly different than when he was at home. He was a strict and abusive parent and this hypocrisy was evident within this novel.

However, there is so much more to this novel than just exploring how different people act when at church. Baldwin has a lot to say about the community and, while racism plays a big part within this debut novel, it was some of the other themes that interested me the most. The struggle between life and faith is a topic that I am fascinated in and while it is not the same as found in the memoir The Dark Path, this is explored in an interesting way within this novel. John Grimes had a spiritual awakening as a teenager and went onto become a preacher, however the hypocrisy he found within the church disheartened him and eventually he walked away from that life.

Yet Go Tell It on the Mountain goes a little deeper in exploring the hypocrisy of the church with subtle references to Baldwin’s sexuality. This is not explored in great detail within this book but it is a major theme in Giovanni’s Room. The way this novel explores the church life is fascinating and he shows great care for his characters; take for example John’s stepfather Gabriel, he may be hypocrite but he still requires some sympathy. He married John’s mother and raised him even if their union would be considered controversial within the church. I love how this novel plays with the religion and the way people differ between their church and home life.

This was my first James Baldwin novel but I have had the opportunity to read some of his short stories in the past. On the surface Go Tell It on the Mountain does sound like it is just focused on the hypocrisy of the church but I love the depth James Baldwin put into this book. The characters are so well crafted that even if you want to hate them you still feel a little compassion towards them. I cannot put my finger on James Baldwin’s writing style; at times it reminds me of dirty realism but all I know is that it makes me want to read more of his novels.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2015/03/22/go-tell-it-on-the-mountain-by-james-b... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Mar 23, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Baldwinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cosgrave, John O'HaraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Hagan, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
For my father and mother
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Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385334575, Paperback)

First published in 1953 when James Baldwin was nearly 30, Go Tell It on the Mountain is a young man's novel, as tightly coiled as a new spring, yet tempered by a maturing man's confidence and empathy. It's not a long book, and its action spans but a single day--yet the author packs in enough emotion, detail, and intimate revelation to make his story feel like a mid-20th-century epic. Using as a frame the spiritual and moral awakening of 14-year-old John Grimes during a Saturday night service in a Harlem storefront church, Baldwin lays bare the secrets of a tormented black family during the depression. John's parents, praying beside him, both wrestle with the ghosts of their sinful pasts--Gabriel, a preacher of towering hypocrisy, fathered an illegitimate child during his first marriage down South and refused to recognize his doomed bastard son; Elizabeth fell in love with a charming, free-spirited young man, followed him to New York, became pregnant with his son, and lost him before she could reveal her condition.

Baldwin lays down the terrible symmetries of these two blighted lives as the ironic context for John's dark night of the soul. When day dawns, John believes himself saved, but his creator makes it clear that this salvation arises as much from blindness as revelation: "He was filled with a joy, a joy unspeakable, whose roots, though he would not trace them on this new day of his life, were nourished by the wellspring of a despair not yet discovered."

Though it was hailed at publication for its groundbreaking use of black idiom, what is most striking about Go Tell It on the Mountain today is its structure and its scope. In peeling back the layers of these damaged lives, Baldwin dramatizes the story of the great black migration from rural South to urban North. "Behind them was the darkness," Baldwin writes of Gabriel and Elizabeth's lost generation, "nothing but the darkness, and all around them destruction, and before them nothing but the fire--a bastard people, far from God, singing and crying in the wilderness!" This is Baldwin's music--a music in which rhapsody is rooted anguish--and there is none finer in American literature. --David Laskin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:00 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

As one of the century's premier American writers, James Baldwin has profoundly altered the nation's social and literary consciousness. "Go Tell It on the Mountain", Baldwin's first novel, brings Harlem and the black experience vividly to life, as it starkly contrasts two generations of an embattled black family.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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