Giovanni’s Room

James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room
James Baldwin

There are just some books that you want in your library. You consider their content is so ageless. You hold onto them like an heirloom. You want the pride of ownership; the physical copy in hardcover that can be displayed as a testament to your good choice of literature. You want to announce to your guests that you are well read; that this is a book reflecting something you’ve either pondered, or experienced, firsthand or in some tangential way. You welcome the conversation started by this book’s presence.

So, as I turn the last page of Giovanni’s Room, I place it in my library and sit silently. I savor the author’s poetry. I let his story settle in me. This is how to experience James Baldwin. You can’t slam it down like a bawdy beer or sip it casually like a spritzer. No, you must take your time; let the bouquet of Baldwin’s prose dizzy you, the vivid flavors of his characters gently unfold on your palette, and the story’s effect overtake you—no sudden moves.


2 thoughts on “Giovanni’s Room

    • Djibril, make it a book on your “read” list this summer–really anything from James Baldwin will do. This story is beautiful and melancholy; its prose is quintessential Baldwin–and that’s what’s most alluring about it. Baldwin is inimitable. I suggest you get the audio book (audible), that way you can knock this one out while you’re stuck in traffic or on the go anywhere. You might have to bookmark certain parts and go back to them. Especially true if you’re going to write the type of in-depth review that you wrote for HeLa, because Baldwin’s strength is in his subtlety and in how he frames scene and character relationships here.

      P.S.: I just finished “The Known World” by Edward P. Jones. This is another “must read.” The audio is performed by a brother named Kevin Free. He is firing on all cylinders with the character voices (male and female) he lends to this piece. You’ll be impressed because he does with his one voice what an ensemble would do for a play—amazing!


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