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James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories: Go Tell It on the Mountain / Giovanni’s Room / Another Country / Going to Meet the Man

by James Baldwin

Other authors: Toni Morrison (Editor)

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573641,897 (4.54)8
Novelist, essayist, and public intellectual, James Baldwin was one of the most brilliant and provocative literary figures of the postwar era, and one of the greatest African-American writers of this century. A self-described "transatlantic commuter" who spent much of his life in France, Baldwin joined a cosmopolitan sophistication to a fierce engagement with social issues. Early Novels and Stories presents the novels and short stories that established Baldwin's reputation as a writer who fused unblinking realism and rare verbal eloquence. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), tells the story, rooted in Baldwin's own experience, of a preacher's son coming of age in 1930's Harlem. Giovanni's Room (1956) is a searching, and in its day controversial, treatment of the tragic self-delusions of a young American expatriate at war with his own homosexuality. Another Country (1962), a wide-ranging exploration of America's racial and sexual boundaries, depicts the suicide of a gifted jazz musician and its ripple effect on those who knew him. Going To Meet the Man (1965) collects Baldwin's short fiction, including the masterful "Sonny's Blues," the unforgettable portrait of a jazz musician struggling with drug addiction in which Baldwin came closest to defining his goal as a writer.… (more)
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I want to say Giovanni's Room is ground breaking but that's only because it puts homosexuality front and center at a time when one's sexual orientation wasn't so openly discussed (1956). The beauty of the story is that it could take place today or tomorrow in any city or town on the planet. Admitting homosexuality isn't any easier today than it was over a half century ago. Giovanni's Room has been called autobiographical because it mirrors Baldwin's personal life: an American expatriate living in France openly engaged to a woman while secretly attracted to men. David is constantly questioning his manhood because he seeks the company of men. His engagement to Hella is nothing more than a cover for his true desires. When his Italian bartender/lover is accused of murder David's world falls apart. More than the plot, Baldwin's writing much be savored. The pictures he paints are raw and honest. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 20, 2011 |
My 2007 Amazon review:

I came to Baldwin around the age of 14 (I am now 47 - a white Britain who prefers to be known as a citizen of the world) and he marked me. His extraordinary stories about a life so foreign in many ways to my own, and yet still having some resonance. Stories about people. I grew up in a multi-cultural school in South London and had friends from all parts of the world - or whose families originated in other parts of the world - and when I left school to go into the big wide world I wondered where all my colourful friends had disappeared to, so even in 70s London, there was some echos of Baldwin's experiences. But for me as much for the learning he offered me about his life of colour, his 'outsiderness' - which I could sometimes relate to especially - it was the wonderful writing.

I'm a big fan of American Literature, so among the writers works I would take with me to the desert island (Shakespeare already awaiting me) would be Baldwin and F Scott Fitzgerald. The writing of both is mindblowing, and they both have so much to say about modern life - whenever that modern life occurs - I'm sure even in the 23rd Century they will have something to say - about race/class/variety/diversity/pain and laughter. And joy, let's not forget joy.

Of course, I would have to have Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde, and Seneca too.

As well as the novels and short stories the powerful and fiery essays burned in my soul, made me question, led me to other African American writers and artists and spirits. ( )
2 vote Caroline_McElwee | Jul 1, 2011 |
I just finished reading Go Tell it on the Mountain., which I bought a few weeks back. I had forgotten how complex the story is, and how open-ended things are left by the end. The book is excellent. Baldwin essentially tells the stories of 4 characters: the lead, John; his mother, Elizabeth; his father, Gabriel, and his aunt, Florence. The story is rich and always twisting. Each character’s past is revealed to us piece-by-piece as the story progresses. It’s really good. I recomend you read this book. (I wonder if the book would have more meaning for me if I was Christian. The book is all about the Lord bringing people low, and then raising them back up—seemingly. I feel like reading the Bible.) -- http://funkaoshi.com/blog/go-tell-it-on-the-mountain-book ( )
  funkaoshi | Apr 29, 2009 |
James Baldwin was one of the best American writers, period. His discussion of black culture in terms of masculinity and gay rights is especially powerful, and as such I liked Giovanni's Room best. Go Tell It on the Mountain is also quite good. The Library of American editions are always worth the purchase; Baldwin's essays, collected here, are of special interest for anyone studying up on race relations or black history in America. ( )
1 vote Ani_Na | Apr 24, 2009 |
Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953): About religious fervor, fathers and sons, and one family's striving toward grace. John is the adopted son of born-again Gabriel, who can't help but love his n'er-do-well biological son more than earnest John. I imagine a young Baldwin being very like this book: eloquent, dramatic and passionate. Aunt Florence - the bitter truth teller - is a marvelous character.

Giovanni's Room (1956): Although Go Tell it on the Mountain is more autobiographical, this book feels more personal. Baldwin puts on some masks - the first-person narrator is blond - but only as if to remind the reader of the book's point: "There is something fantastic in the spectacle I now present to myself of having run so far, so hard, across the ocean even, only to find myself brought up short once more before the bulldog in my own backyard..." [p. 223]
David is an American waging a war with his sexuality in Paris, and falling in love - perhaps - with a young Italian barman. The strength of his self-loathing forces him to abandon Giovanni, who rebels against the few options open to him to earn a living and is killed.

Another Country (1962): This is a truly great novel which I hope never to read again. Baldwin focuses on a musician and three couples, describing their attempts at intimacy which they sabotage with their own fear. The experience of reading the book is so very much like the painful journey that the characters take through the novel that it's incredibly difficult to read. While I was reading I flagged these quotations as describing exactly the experience of reading the book:

"Yes, he had been there: chafing and pushing and pounding, trying to awaken a frozen girl." [p. 483]
"So, there they were, as the ghastly summer groaned and bubbled on..." [p. 653]
"'I'm sorry to have hurt your feelings, I'm not trying to kill you. I know you're not responsible for—for the world. And, listen: I don't blame you for not being willing. I'm not willing, nobody's willing. Nobody's willing to pay their dues.'" [p. 657]
"'I'm beginning to think,' she said, 'that growing just means learning more and more about anguish.'" [p. 729]

The prose and the characters and the subject matter are so perfectly matched that one feels awed at Baldwin's mastery. And I hope I won't have to pay my dues again any time soon.

Going to Meet the Man (1965): There is always at least one story in a collection of short stories that I dislike, and I'm not really fond of the first four in this one. They re-use characters from other novels, and so feel like discarded chapters or a bizarre kind of auto-fan-fiction. Sonny's Blues is good, about the nature of addiction. I also liked This Morning, This Evening, So Soon, about a black singer/actor going back to the US with his son after a long hiatus in Europe. ( )
  bexaplex | Apr 19, 2008 |
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Baldwin, JamesAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrison, ToniEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Novelist, essayist, and public intellectual, James Baldwin was one of the most brilliant and provocative literary figures of the postwar era, and one of the greatest African-American writers of this century. A self-described "transatlantic commuter" who spent much of his life in France, Baldwin joined a cosmopolitan sophistication to a fierce engagement with social issues. Early Novels and Stories presents the novels and short stories that established Baldwin's reputation as a writer who fused unblinking realism and rare verbal eloquence. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), tells the story, rooted in Baldwin's own experience, of a preacher's son coming of age in 1930's Harlem. Giovanni's Room (1956) is a searching, and in its day controversial, treatment of the tragic self-delusions of a young American expatriate at war with his own homosexuality. Another Country (1962), a wide-ranging exploration of America's racial and sexual boundaries, depicts the suicide of a gifted jazz musician and its ripple effect on those who knew him. Going To Meet the Man (1965) collects Baldwin's short fiction, including the masterful "Sonny's Blues," the unforgettable portrait of a jazz musician struggling with drug addiction in which Baldwin came closest to defining his goal as a writer.

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Contents:
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Giovanni's Room
  • Another Country
  • Going to Meet the Man: Stories
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