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.