mark monday's Reviews > Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
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's review
Mar 18, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: queertime

poetic prose at its most yearning and beautiful. this could have been perfection, but it is a bit hard to ignore the underlying misogyny.
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02/15 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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drowningmermaid I'm only just starting it, but I'm kinda getting the feeling that the misogyny goes hand in hand with the homosexuality... will have to read more.

message 2: by mark (last edited Jun 30, 2014 02:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday I don't think misogyny and homosexuality are automatically linked, quite the opposite much of the time. but there has been a virulent strain of misogyny that has reared its head from time to time in various homosexual male communities. transphobia as well. I am assuming (and hoping) such things are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

as far as this novel goes, I don't think Baldwin himself is a misogynist. but this beautiful novel does have its issues, at least for me.

Hugo I also found it hard to ignore. But I think the novel redeems itself somewhat through the character Hella. She would say these really unfeminist things like:
"I’m not really the emancipated girl I try to be at all. I guess I just want a man to come home to me every night. (...) I want to be knocked up. I want to start having babies. In a way, it’s really all I’m good for.’ There was silence again. ‘Is that what you want?"
Which I feel was somewhat sarcastic. And then some other time she would confess how humiliating it is to be a woman and have to be dependent on men. I think she was struggling between at times wanting to be independent and other times just feeling like succumbing to society's pressure and taking comfort in a stable but suffocating relationship between a man and a woman (which contrasts with the unstable but exciting relationship between the two men).

mark monday Hugo, I like your analysis. I'm overdue to reread this one and it will be good to keep it mind during the rereading.

Nick Having just read the book I also like Hugo's analysis, but I think Baldwin thinks the more 'independent' side of Hella is the artificial construct, whereas the housewifery is a desire which stems from natural feminine qualities. Which is very dated but I feel we should let Baldwin off the hook.

mark monday you have provided me my ongoing reminder to re-read this book! I really need to do that. come on, mark, get with it already.

Nick You can read it in one sitting!

drowningmermaid You could listen to it on audio! (Audiobooks are great for re-reading, I find. I'm not as concerned about missing something if it's a re-read.)

mark monday ack, noooooo! I am trying to adjust my antipathy towards audio books, but the very idea of not being able to read and re-read and then re-read again different examples of Baldwin's beautiful prose style would defeat the whole point of re-reading it again. I still recall the narrative; I want to swoon over the brilliant prose on the page.

although perhaps it may be easier to digest the ideas in the book via audio book, since I wouldn't be so distracted by all of the glorious writing on display.

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