Set in the 1950’s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.
©1956 James Baldwin (P)2013 AudioGO
The story is a classic - James Baldwin captures so many emothions - passion, longing, loathing into one story line.
I am a New York musician, a New York native, and a passionate reader of fiction. Audible is helping me fill in some serious literary gaps.
I'd never read any Baldwin and it was high time to fill in the gap. I think "Giovanni's Room" is a good way to get to know this extraordinary author. The writing is filled with beauty, the characters are potent and alive, and Baldwin's ability to evoke time and place (cities, seasons, an entire era) is masterful. The tone is unrelievedly elegiac; the sad ending is announced at the very beginning, and there is precious little joy in the narrative. Every character is at some kind of impasse. But Baldwin describes everyone with such vivid detail that their dead-ends blaze in Technicolor.
Dan Butler is a fine actor, and he doesn't fight the dolefulness of the book. He lives it. He has good timing, he finds non-stagy ways to evoke the characters, and he turns Baldwin's novel into a subtle, powerful monologue. He has variety and soul.
What's the catch? Something that could have been avoided, alas. There is a lot of French in this book--most of it takes place in Paris, some in the south of France--and Butler has no idea how to pronounce the many, many French phrases. It's not merely that he has an American accent. Sometimes I simply could not figure out what he was saying at all. He's such a believable, sympathetic reader. I wish he'd taken the time to coach the French and get it right. He doesn't even pronounce the title character's name correctly; sometimes he gets the name "Guillaume" right but in the next paragraph he'll call the man "Zhee-yome." Etc. For me, a distraction and an irritation. For another reader, perhaps less of an issue.
"Giovanni's Room" is shortish--a manageable length, and I think a beautiful entry into the world of James Baldwin. I am ready for more.
It's a good story to listen to because it lends itself to the audio format. Be careful, though -- you may miss your exit on the highway because you're so involved in the drama.
Baldwin is one of my favorites because he always is able to lull the reader into a sense of comfort before unleashing a phrase, sentence, or passage that rises above the fray and cuts to the core of an emotion. He blends the matter-of-fact with the lyrical so well.
The last scene between David and Giovanni is very well done. Baldwin takes what could have been a trite, commonplace circumstance and makes it into something much rich and less generic.
An alternative title? Perhaps: Escaping Myself.
I will recommend it to people fascinated by relationships with others and with one's self
Another Country is another beautiful story of human relationships and emotional connections
David and Giovanni
I would take Giovanni if I was allowed to fall in love with him
Must read for open minded romantics
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