Literary Fiction by People of Color discussion

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message 1: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Welcome to our June discussion of James Baldwin's classic, Another Country. Has anyone started this book yet? Previously read it? Awaiting for a library copy to arrive?


message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments I'm on page 128 and looking forward to this discussion.


message 3: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Thanks, Carol.

I'm curious as to what form or method everyone is reading this book in i.e., ebook, hardcover, softcover etc...also what edition and if there's an introduction in your copy. I have an old Vintage publishing copy (blue cover) with no introduction, foreword or afterword.


message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments Columbus wrote: "Thanks, Carol.

I'm curious as to what form or method everyone is reading this book in i.e., ebook, hardcover, softcover etc...also what edition and if there's an introduction in your copy. I have..."


I am reading the same version as you, borrowed from my library. I was surprised that it lacked any of the items you mentioned. I would have thought someone would be delighted to pen an intro, and I would have been delighted to read said intro.


message 5: by Janet (new)

Janet | 224 comments Also reading the blue from the library edition. Does anyone know if the additional material might be available online?


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weathersby (saraphen) | 261 comments Columbus wrote: "Thanks, Carol.

I'm curious as to what form or method everyone is reading this book in i.e., ebook, hardcover, softcover etc...also what edition and if there's an introduction in your copy. I have..."


I'm reading from the blue library edition as well. The font is so small (after years of enlarging the font on my Kindle), ARGGHHH! Have sympathy for my old eyes.


message 7: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Thanks, Carol.

I'm curious as to what form or method everyone is reading this book in i.e., ebook, hardcover, softcover etc...also what edition and if there's an introduction in ..."


Sarah, i was gonna post this exact same comment. I pulled this book from my library shelf and planned to jump right in until i looked at the font size. No way. I had no issue with this ten yrs ago when i read it. Ok, it was a decade ago but still. I figured Open Library would have an ebook available but no luck.


message 8: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Janet wrote: "Also reading the blue from the library edition. Does anyone know if the additional material might be available online?"

Janet, didn't think about that. I'll look.


message 9: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments I loved the below linked article from the New Yorker (2009), which explains how Another Country fits into Baldwin's life and written works. It does a great job of explaining the Baldwin/Wright rift, among other things. I don't think there are any spoilers in it, but I'm not sensitive to spoilers, to be candid, so proceed at your own risk.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/200...


message 10: by William (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1237 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "I loved the below linked article from the New Yorker (2009), which explains how Another Country fits into Baldwin's life and written works. It does a great job of explaining the Baldwin/Wright rift..."

Didn't read this article yet but just finished reading where Baldwin has his character Eric have a library of three books. One of which is Native Son by Richard Wright. Hmmm.


message 11: by ColumbusReads (last edited Jun 01, 2017 11:56AM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
This book is long! Much longer than I recall. I just got through the large sample available on my iPad and it gets me only to page 31 of this 436 page book.

The novel is divided into 3 "Books" but because of the length how about we break it up into 5 reading groups of about 85 pages each. The only problem with that is a particular section may end off at an important or critical part of the book. If that's not a problem, here's the proposed reading schedule:

Easy Rider chapter 1- June 5-9
Easy Rider chap 2 to Any Day Now - June 10-14
Any Day Now chap 1 & 2 - June 15-20
Any Day Now chap 3 - June 21-25
Toward Bethlehem -June 26 Entire book open


message 12: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments William wrote: "Carol wrote: "I loved the below linked article from the New Yorker (2009), which explains how Another Country fits into Baldwin's life and written works. It does a great job of explaining the Baldw..."

This is perfect, William. I'm glad he did this. I still remember how
I felt reading Native Son when I was 18. Props to Wright, not that Baldwin shouldn't have challenged him. It was a duel of brilliant, thoughtful giants.


message 13: by ColumbusReads (last edited Jun 02, 2017 08:01AM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "I loved the below linked article from the New Yorker (2009), which explains how Another Country fits into Baldwin's life and written works. It does a great job of explaining the Baldwin/Wright rift..."

Carol, thanks so much for this article. It was thoughtful and very well written.

She had very little use for Baldwin's latter work which is pretty much the consensus of many people who study his work. Some friends of mine though would strongly disagree, however, with her assessment or relegating Just Above My Head to that bottom bunk. They consider this to be his best novel and would argue it word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence and page-by page if they had to. I really can't recall if I read it or not but I have it here so I might start it soon.

I'm only 50'pages into Another Country but I'm loving it more than I realized and that's saying a lot. Following up Another Country with The Fire Next Time, Baldwin creatively must've been sitting on top of the world (LFPC did it in reverse - Fire then Country). Tantamount to Miles following up Kind of Blue w/Sketches of Spain (well somewhat).


message 14: by Carol (last edited Jun 02, 2017 08:58AM) (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments You're welcome. It was a good reminder for me of the timeline, particularly of how the timing of his publications lined up with key historical events. I agree that she was dismissive and aligned with the majority academic view on Baldwin's later works. I've never even seen a copy of Just Above My Head. I'll have to look for it, based on those strong comments from your friends. I suspect I'll also be an outlier.

I've been impressed at how fast a read this is. I was prepared for it to be dense and a bit of a slog (based on a long-ago read of Go Tell It on the Mountain) and have been entirely wrong. Small font and all.

i'm now a little ways into Any Day Now and finding the characters of Eric and Yves, particularly Yves, to be fascinating and complex.


message 15: by Dee (new)

Dee Maria (deemaria) | 9 comments Columbus wrote: "The novel is divided into 3 "Books" but because of the length how about we break it up into 5 reading groups of about 85 pages each. The only problem with that is a particular section may end off at an important or critical part of the book. If that's not a problem, here's the proposed reading schedule:

Easy Rider chapter 1- June 5-9
Easy Rider chap 2 to Any Day Now - June 10-14
Any Day Now chap 1 & 2 - June 15-20
Any Day Now chap 3 - June 21-25
Toward Bethlehem -June 26 Entire book open ."


Sounds like a great plan!

I read this novel probably 20 years ago and am excited to be reading it again, and more importantly, to be reading for pleasure. I teach college English Lit and don't get to do as much casual reading as my heart desires.

This timing is perfect. Looking forward to discussing it.


message 16: by Melvin (new)

Melvin Hunter | 15 comments I have the kindle version of this book. I havne't started it yet but I'm looking forward to it


message 17: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Hello, Dee - It'll be interesting to find out your thoughts about the book twenty years later. I say that because my thoughts on the book have changed ten years after I read the book. It's really different than I remember it.

Greetings, Melvin - Just curious to know if there's an introduction or afterword in the kindle version. Doesn't appear to be one in the paper copies we're reading and nothing online. I'm assuming that would nean no new versions of this book has been released recently which is pretty shocking to me, really.

Glad to have you both. Discussion will start the 5th.


message 18: by Melvin (new)

Melvin Hunter | 15 comments Hello!!! There is no forward in the kindle version either.


message 19: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Melvin wrote: "Hello!!! There is no forward in the kindle version either."

Ok, thank you.


message 20: by Dee (new)

Dee Maria (deemaria) | 9 comments Columbus wrote: "Hello, Dee - It'll be interesting to find out your thoughts about the book twenty years later. I say that because my thoughts on the book have changed ten years after I read the book. It's really different than I remember it."

Do you remember most books you read awhile go?

My memory of books read long ago is terrible. I'm left more with impressions or feelings about them (I enjoyed it, was bored, struggled to get through it, etc.), rather than a clear perspective on plot, characters or writing style. There are exceptions of course. Toni Morrison's stories always stick with me, as do J. California Cooper's for some reason.

What makes a story memorable?


message 21: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Here's a really fascinating article from The Paris Review. in 1984. Another Country is mentioned a bit. Carol, check out the bit about Just Above My Head. You wonder why this book never received as much love as the others. At least some have recognized it.

https://www.theparisreview.org/interv...


message 22: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments Columbus wrote: "Here's a really fascinating article from The Paris Review. in 1984. Another Country is mentioned a bit. Carol, check out the bit about Just Above My Head. You wonder why this book never received as..."

Wow. That was one powerful read. Thank you for sharing it.


message 23: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
dee wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Hello, Dee - It'll be interesting to find out your thoughts about the book twenty years later. I say that because my thoughts on the book have changed ten years after I read the bo..."

Yes, Morrison is a great example. I've heard that from others as well. Very few writers you can say that about. Another Country is feeling like a completely new book for me and I'll say again, that's a good thing.


message 24: by George (new)

George | 759 comments I ordered this earlier today, so I should have it soon. I read it back over 40 years ago, and I'd have to say I wasn't crazy about it at the time. It felt too commercial to me compared to his earlier works. but I thought I'd give it another shot and see if maybe I'll see other things now.


message 25: by ColumbusReads (last edited Jun 05, 2017 12:27AM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
George wrote: "I ordered this earlier today, so I should have it soon. I read it back over 40 years ago, and I'd have to say I wasn't crazy about it at the time. It felt too commercial to me compared to his earli..."

"too commercial" hmm, that's interesting. I would certainly like to hear how you feel about it now. Is that commercial in that the story is more accessible to readers compared to his earlier work like, Go Tell It On The Mountain or Giovanni's Room? Commercial is what I would use to describe the more recent work of Toni Morrison God Help the Child with the themes included and it being set current day.


message 26: by ColumbusReads (last edited Jun 05, 2017 12:31AM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Chapter 1 Easy Rider is now open for discussion. Let's begin!


message 27: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Just so everyone is aware how far in the book we're now discussing. The first part ends with Rufus leaving the Greenwich Village bar, Benno's, presumably to visit his family in Harlem. He passes by Eric's residence, an old flame, who's been mentioned only briefly here. He's on the train doing much introspection and reflecting.

What are your thoughts on the book so far? The sort of bohemian lifestyle of these characters: Rufus, Vivaldo, Cass, Richard, Jane, Leona. Who did I miss? The toxicity of Rufus and Leona's relationship? Baldwin's writing?


message 28: by George (new)

George | 759 comments Columbus wrote: "George wrote: "I ordered this earlier today, so I should have it soon. I read it back over 40 years ago, and I'd have to say I wasn't crazy about it at the time. It felt too commercial to me compar..."

well, that's how I felt over 40 years ago while in college. I'm curious how I'll feel now as well. But yes, I much preferred the two books you mentioned at the time.


message 29: by William (last edited Jun 05, 2017 09:42AM) (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1237 comments Mod
Columbus wrote: "Just so everyone is aware how far in the book we're now discussing. The first part ends with Rufus leaving the Greenwich Village bar, Benno's, presumably to visit his family in Harlem. He passes by..."

While Baldwins writing is just as luminous as always. I think the story suffers a bit from the distance of time. Themes that would be shocking in the sixties are less so now. Strictly drawn social and territorial barriers are less so now. (do you think any of his characters could imagine an ex president putting his offices in Harlem?) I was 9 when this book was published. I was a bit too young to be part of any Bohemian lifestyle. But I had an Aunt who lived on one of the Village's main drags, Bleeker Street, whom I visited often. I can attest to her love of jazz, jazz musicians, jazz clubs, cocktails, and "soiree's". I can see all of these characters in her living room.


message 30: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments William wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Just so everyone is aware how far in the book we're now discussing. The first part ends with Rufus leaving the Greenwich Village bar, Benno's, presumably to visit his family in Har..."

I agree that understanding NYC the way it was and operated at the time of publication is key, and likely difficult for those not aware of it. You're spot on in terms of Clinton's office location. I even wondered about the authenticity of having Vivaldo visit Harlem regularly to engage prostitutes. Wouldn't a middle-class looking white guy known to carry cash and make regular visits have been creating incrementally increasing odds of being mugged outside the subway on . . . say . . .trip 5 and above? Even in the 70s, police would look sideways at any one white traveling north of 90th.

I was a little puzzled at how they all supported themselves in what seemed to be decent enough to nice housing.

(view spoiler)


message 31: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weathersby (saraphen) | 261 comments Carol wrote: "I agree that understanding NYC the way it was and operated at the time of publication is key, and likely difficult for those not aware of it. You're spot on in terms of Clinton's office location."

I graduated from Drew University, Madison New Jersey 50 years ago. During my years at Drew I often spent weekends in NYC visiting my brother, at least that's what the Dean of Women thought I was doing. But I did have a grand old time at parties from Staten Island to the Bronx.

In recent years when my son married and lived in Manhattan, people who lived in "the Village" have become territorial. Imagine being told that "You can't park on this street." My former daughter-in-law was a feisty little thing, marking her own territory.


message 32: by William (last edited Jun 05, 2017 09:14PM) (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1237 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "William wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Just so everyone is aware how far in the book we're now discussing. The first part ends with Rufus leaving the Greenwich Village bar, Benno's, presumably to visit h..."

But let's not forget, White folks were always given free pass into Harlem. Remember that the jazz clubs, i.e. the Cotton Club, the Savoy etc. catered to white audiences and but barred Negro clientele while employing Black musicians, dancers and wait staff during the Harlem renaissance/1920-30's. Blacks were never given a free pass downtown.
When the clubs and the city "integrated" after WW2, whites retained their uptown privilege, especially in the case of those afflicted with Vivaldos "Jungle Fever". I doubt that the cops would have given Vivaldo a second thought although the muggers might have. Of course after the urban rebellions of 1967-75 everything changed. And now we've come full circle where Harlem and my neighborhoods of DC are fighting to survive gentrification..


message 33: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments William wrote: "Carol wrote: "William wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Just so everyone is aware how far in the book we're now discussing. The first part ends with Rufus leaving the Greenwich Village bar, Benno's, presuma..."

That makes sense. I have Chester Himes' vision of earlier days in the back of my mind, but Baldwin's story is a decade-plus removed, I think. Hasn't that battle been lost in DC, William? Or is there some of Anacostia left that folks who've lived there their whole lives can afford to remain in? (I moved away in the late 1990's and now return for work sporadically).


message 34: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
From The Paris Review, Baldwin reads from the part of the book we're now discussing, as well as a part later in the book.

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2...


message 35: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) Carol wrote: "I loved the below linked article from the New Yorker (2009), which explains how Another Country fits into Baldwin's life and written works. It does a great job of explaining the Baldwin/Wright rift..."

Thanks for this link, Carol! It's very helpful to add a little more info in addition to "The Fire Next Time", which we read last month.

I'm reading the Kindle version of "Another Country" and I'm quite happy with the font size and the paragraphs. Of course, it's a long book, but electronically the format looks good. No introduction in my kindle version.

I've just reached Chapter 2. Very amazed how clear and accessible Baldwin's prose is so far. Wonder how this story will unfold.


message 36: by William (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1237 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "William wrote: "Carol wrote: "William wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Just so everyone is aware how far in the book we're now discussing. The first part ends with Rufus leaving the Greenwich Village bar, ..."

Gentrification marches on. The affordable areas get smaller. P.G county is now the 9th ward.


message 37: by Dee (new)

Dee Maria (deemaria) | 9 comments Columbus wrote: "Commercial is what I would use to describe the more recent work of Toni Morrison God Help the Child with the themes included and it being set current day. "

I agree. My first time struggling through a Morrison novel. It felt like she was trying hard to be current/relevant, which is unlike her.


message 38: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Discussing Easy Rider chap 2 to Any Day Now - June 10-14


message 39: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Opens with Cass inviting Ida over to her home to discuss the whereabouts of Rufus. The dialogue reminds me strangely enough of Albee's, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, but this discussion segues into race and how negroes are treated by NYC police.

Rufus commits suicide. Just before I reached this part in the book I read a review of Another Country where it was revealed that he committed suicide. I had totally forgotten about this and was unhappy about reading this in the review.

Cass and Vivaldo attend Rufus funeral. Cass wouldn't go in the church for Rufus because she didn't have anything on her head? Never heard of that. Cass leaves to find something to put on her head and is confronted by all the negroes staring at her. She being the only white person in this sea of negroes. Now she can see how we feel in most situations. Her hypocrisy and privilege is wearing on me.

"He had refused to see it, for he had insisted that he and Rufus were equals. They were friends far beyond the reach of anything so banal and corny as color." How naive was Vivaldo?

There's the party given by Cass and Richard to celebrate the launch of Richard's first novel.

The Vivaldo/Ida love story doesn't seem organic to me. The dialogue between the two just feels a little forced.

What's your thoughts on this section and the book so far?


message 40: by William (new)

William (be2lieve) | 1237 comments Mod
Rufus is such a problematical character for me. He is described as a handsome tallish attractive male bisexual. He should have his pick of the litter of either sex yet he picks the unattractive, skinny, plain Leonna as his partner. Is her whiteness such an overpowering feature that all other rules of attraction are thrown out of the window? I suppose so. Rufus lack of self esteem is on display as he tries his best to humiliate and debase her. The dual burden of his blackness and bisexuality being too much for him to bear and ending in his suicide. To say Rufus is not a lovable character is an understatement. That Baldwin manages to keep him as a central character in the story even after his death is an amazing feat.
Rufus prostitutes himself between drumming gigs. Although he is said to be an accomplished jazz musician. His poverty also playing a role in his despair and destruction. His is a life that most novelists would avoid.


message 41: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments Vivaldo is incredibly naive.

That party seemed interminable to me. I couldn't wait to leave it.

The relationship between Vivaldo and Ida is odd for a couple of reasons. The main one, for me, is that we get no insight into Ida's thoughts, passions, preferences at all. But we're up inside of Vivaldo's head incessantly. Ida is the most difficult of the important characters to get a handle on. Perhaps Baldwin gives her more attention later in the book (I'm on page 239), but at this point, his bias toward his male characters is grating.


message 42: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weathersby (saraphen) | 261 comments Columbus wrote: "Cass and Vivaldo attend Rufus funeral. Cass wouldn't go in the church for Rufus because she didn't have anything on her head? Never heard of that. Cass leaves to find something to put on her head and is confronted by all the negroes staring at her. She being the only white person in this sea of negroes. Now she can see how we feel in most situations. Her hypocrisy and privilege is wearing on me.."

Way back when most churches in NYC were denominational (Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.), women didn't enter the sanctuary without covering their heads. I didn't stop wearing a hat until I was in my 50's. But then it turns out that Rufus' funeral was led by friends and neighbors, and maybe one designated preacher.


message 43: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weathersby (saraphen) | 261 comments William wrote: "Is her whiteness such an overpowering feature that all other rules of attraction are thrown out of the window? I suppose so. Rufus lack of self esteem is on display as he tries his best to humiliate and debase her."

I saw Rufus' abuse of Leona as taking control as a black man. And Leona's lack of self-esteem only leading to more humiliation. After one of Rufus' disappearances, when Vivaldo found him, Rufus told of all the abuse he had laid on Leona, until she left him.


message 44: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Cass and Vivaldo attend Rufus funeral. Cass wouldn't go in the church for Rufus because she didn't have anything on her head? Never heard of that. Cass leaves to find something to ..."

Sarah, I wasn't aware of this at all. I read over this twice to make sure I read it correctly. Was this more prevalent in NYC and east coast churches or southern ones as well? I know my mom and aunts wore hats religiously (excuse the pun) primarily for Mother's Day, Easter, Christmas but that was it. But, then that was Pentecostal and Baptist churches.


message 45: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
William, you have a good point there about Rufus and Leona. Unfortunately, I see that all the time and I'm baffled by it.

Rufus' situation is problematic and at this point in the book we just don't totally know the full reasoning behind his issues: is it his confusion about his sexuality; the fact he's teetering on the margins financially with his employment situation rather dicey; the race problem; his relationship issue(s) and problems with abuse. Is it all of this?

I pretty much figured we'd get more of Rufus in later chapters and he would play a central figure throughout the book after reading the quote from Eldridge Cleaver about this book. I'll print it here but if some feel it too offensive I'll remove it.

I say this too because several months ago I added a quote where the author used the 'N' word and I printed it as is. The member inboxed me and questioned if this was a direct quote or if I used it myself. She was a little confused about it. I showed her where I got the quote from and she was ok with it.I really appreciated how she approached me about the situation and told her so. I also let her know how I felt about the word and never, ever, ever use it myself even in joking. However, I will include it if it's used in a situation where I'm quoting someone. If you feel it should not be used at all and the letters after the n should be replaced with symbals, I have no problem doing that as well.

Anyway, here's the Cleaver quote:

Rufus Scott, a pathetic wretch who indulged in the white man's pastime of committing suicide, who let a white homosexual fuck him in the ass, and who took a Southern Jezebel for his woman, with all that these tortured relationships imply, was the epitome of a black eunuch who has completely submitted to the white man. Yes, Rufus was a psychological freedom rider, turning the ultimate cheek, murmuring like a ghost "You took the best so why not take the rest," which has absolutely nothing to do with the way that Negroes have managed to survive here in the hells of North America!


message 46: by Carol (last edited Jun 11, 2017 07:12PM) (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments That's one powerful quote. I'll assume that deeming Leona a Jezebel is a sign of the time in which it was uttered. Although, . . . did Mr. Cleaver deem Ida a Jezebel, too, then?

I accept Rufus as Baldwin offers him up to us. As a character, though, his descent wasn't explored or explained enough to make sense to me. One minute he was a medium-successful musician, albeit troubled and uncomfortable with his sexual orientation. Then he wasn't. He's in NY. Leona wasn't his only option. Nor was he her only option. We never see them happy, so their inertia progressing into dependency and violence seemed odd. Why now and not a decade earlier? Why now and not next year?


message 47: by ColumbusReads (last edited Jun 11, 2017 06:57PM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3684 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "That's one powerful quote. I'll assume that deeming Leona a Jezebel is a sign of the time in which it was uttered. Although, . . . did Mr. cleaver deem Ida a Jezebel, too, then?

I accept Rufus as..."


I suspect it will all be explained later.

This feels like a totally new book to me even with my 3rd time reading it. Albeit it's been roughly 12 years between readings. I'm finding some issues with it that I hadn't before which is pretty common I guess with new reading experiences. But even with these flaws I'm finding it fascinating still. Like right at this minute I'm juggling several things here at home but I want to get back to the book. Carol, is it the same for you or not? You hadn't read this before had you? What other books have you read by Baldwin?


message 48: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments Columbus wrote: "Carol wrote: "That's one powerful quote. I'll assume that deeming Leona a Jezebel is a sign of the time in which it was uttered. Although, . . . did Mr. cleaver deem Ida a Jezebel, too, then?

I a..."


I am similarly juggling but want to get back to it. haven't read any part of this before. I read Go Tell It on The Mountain in undergrad, but, to be honest, I was far more enamored of Jean Toomer, Ishmael Reed and others on the same syllabus that semester, and don't recall giving Baldwin much attention at the time. Since, I've always picked up someone else's work instead, to my detriment. I'm delighted to be reading this now with this group.


message 49: by Dee (new)

Dee Maria (deemaria) | 9 comments Carol wrote: "I accept Rufus as Baldwin offers him up to us. As a character, though, his descent wasn't explored or explained enough to make sense to me. One minute he was a medium-successful musician, albeit troubled and uncomfortable with his sexual orientation. Then he wasn't. He's in NY. Leona wasn't his only option. Nor was he her only option. We never see them happy, so their inertia progressing into dependency and violence seemed odd. Why now and not a decade earlier? Why now and not next year? "

Great questions. I also accept Rufus as Baldwin offers him; however, I think it's because I regard Rufus as some aspect of Baldwin himself -- at least the part of him that struggles with his homosexuality, blackness, and ultimate poverty. For me, Rufus' descent into madness is his inability to reconcile not one or two of these realities, but all three simultaneously. There's always something in Baldwin's voice for me that speaks (shouts?) his own defiance against the descent. I wonder if that scene when Rufus gets off the subway and walks to the bridge is Baldwin's fantasy of what it would be like to indeed give up and let go.

My take on Rufus' brutality toward Leona is that he wanted her to save (release?) him from his homosexuality, which of course she couldn't, yet he blamed her for not being able to. He seemed to put a great deal of faith into her being able to redeem him, to right him, and when he realized that she didn't eradicate his desire for men, she became the target of his confusion/frustration/rage.

Perhaps another reference to Baldwin: His complicated relationship with Christianity and the church. As he's falling, Rufus says "... all right, you motherfucking Godalmighty bastard, I'm coming to you." What does this mean? He's angry with God and giving in ... to what?


message 50: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 561 comments dee wrote: "Carol wrote: "I accept Rufus as Baldwin offers him up to us. As a character, though, his descent wasn't explored or explained enough to make sense to me. One minute he was a medium-successful music..."

This is very helpful, Dee. I agree with you on Leona. That initial scene at the party when they met it so awkward and not about desire.

On the components of AC that reflect Baldwin, as a man: My brain knows that AC is highly autobiographical and yet it is uncomfortable for my heart to appreciate it as autobiographical because of the nature of what is disclosed, and to critique it. It feels presumptuous for me to comment on it dispassionately as a work of fiction, when it embodies its author's most intimate struggles. It's just a book, but then it isn't, if you know what I mean.


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