Thursday, June 26, 2008

Contemplating Baldwin Again

When I first read Giovanni's Room years ago, I was young and couldn't quite understand the homoerotic implications. But, I really enjoyed this beautifully tragic story by James Baldwin, and I was really excited to revist it in a graduate class I'm taking this summer on Gender and Sexuality in Literature...(a class I lovingly refer to as Gen & Sex). In class, my professor and I became engaged in a somewhat heated debate about the degree to which David, the protagonist being, and in my opinion not being, responsible for the death of his lover, Giovanni. I still feel now,just as I did all those years ago, that Giovanni, as sweet as he may have been, was too needy. He entered a relationship with the understanding that it would end, and when it ended he shattered like fine china. I agree, David was a jackass; mostly because of his own self-hatred. But, they were both technically adults in a homosexual relationship in Paris in 1956; what did he expect?

This was Baldwin's second book, and it wasn't well received. Critics were put off by the homosexual content and I suppose black people were put off because well, there were no black people in the book. I love that Baldwin was courageous enough to write the book he wanted to write, in spite of the criticism from Eldridge Cleaver about "homosexuals" and "baby-rapist," and from Richard Wright about insisting that black authors should only write about "the Negro problem". As a writer, I may want or need to write about something other than what others can see. And what others can't see, may be issues that we all struggle with, regardless of what you see on the outside. Giovanni's Room deals with classic issues of identity, self-denial, a loss of innocence (no matter how artificial it may be), and what I call, auto-expatriation (one's attempt to be someone else). And Baldwin makes these struggles clear, in spite of his characters packaging.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

My London Dream Comes to an End

Well, I've been home for just over a week now, and it's time to get back to reality; no more petite custard tarts from the sweet, little Portuguese baker on the corner, no more Tube hopping in the middle of the night, no more imagining Mrs. Dalloway strolling down Bond Street with a bouquet of flowers.

Now, it's time for summer school, and maybe a gig in the Office of Student Affairs. Now, I really begin my countdown to graduation, which includes preparing to take the GRE at the end of the summer. My course loads will be a little lighter from here on out. Two classes this summer will include Gender and Sexuality in LIterature and finally, African American LIterature to 1850. I saved African American Literatures for my last year, because I know I already enjoy it, and I wanted to be able to focus on something I really loved. (As opposed to being stressed out about something that doesn't hold my interest as much.)

So, fare thee well, my London....maybe we'll meet again.

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