Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
An awful book about awful people being awful to each other...With the worst of the bunch narrating the whole unhappy affair in a whiny, navel-gazing voice.
Let me begin with an interesting (to me) side note: There is a somewhat famous gay bookstore in Philadelphia called Giovanni's Room. I've never been, but heard about it when it nearly closed it's doors recently and there was a push in LGBT circles to save it. I gathered from what I heard of the bookstore (and from the crusade itself) that the bookstore had long provided a sort of haven for the local gay community--a safe place to gather and, of course, explore gay fiction and poetry. That led me to believe that the book Giovanni's Room would be about a refuge that allowed two men to explore their attraction to one another.
Now, having read the book, I wonder if the people who opened the bookstore and named it Giovanni's Room had read the book. In the book, the room is a sort of nadir of cosmic horror and repulsion. It acts on those who enter it in a palpably malevolent fashion, crushing them between it's dank and dirty, claustrophobia-inducing walls. It drives one of the men, ultimately to
Was it well-written? Most assuredly. Baldwin knows his way around prose. And he occasionally uses colons to off-set his dialogue tags, which I also like to do, but which has recently become something of a no-no, apparently. But the story could never rise to the level of the words telling it.
Reading the other reviews I'm honestly wondering if I didn't read some other book! Another check on my "501 Must Read Books" List that fails to live up to the hype.
View all my reviews