Thursday, January 12, 2023

Giovanni's Room


Up at the top of the stairs at my library there is a large cube of books along the lines of "good books you may have missed". On top of that is a dry erase board that asks a visitor to "Suggest a book". I dutifully wrote down "King of Schnorrers" and then read the other titles. I could do this in no fear that someone would have already put my recommendation down. But one of the tiles previously recommended did catch my eye:

"Giovanni's Room" by James Baldwin.

I had never managed to read a James Baldwin book, and I wanted to. I recently saw an interesting documentary about him, presented all in his own words, and was full of respect for the man, his insight, thoughtfulness, and talent.

So I got his book on the library audiobook app and commenced listening to "Giovanni's Room". I listened to it over the long course of the day, while shelving, on the machine, and during some of my lunch. My phone says I read 14% of it so far. Anyway I started listening to it and I thought...


OMG (in the non abbreviated form).


Unsparingly honest, rich, immaculately and gorgeously written, ethically complex, painful, powerful, wrenching, deep, and with a kind of complete, relentless presence. In short, it is, from the first brilliant sentence, an absolute masterpiece and likely one of the greatest books of its time, of all time!

I may read more of it later but probably not.

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