Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin’s controversial second novel, is a clenched fist, a bucket of sour grapes, a weeping work of art. A compact little tale of societal alienation and forbidden love (and lust), time has not dimmed its lights or smoothed its edges. Not one iota.
Baldwin’s most well-known work is sensual and thrilling and tragic; I closed my paperback edition with tears in my eyes. The tale of Giovanni and Butch is universal, yet special, shimmering; it is the Romeo and Juliet for gays. What should be humdrum — pining for one’s love, an affair, adventures in a new city — is rendered fresh in this author’s hands.
Oft considered one of the finest LGBTQ novels, this is a groundbreaking, rambunctious work that was far ahead of its time. Its lessons should be considered and remembered in the current year, as a matter of fact. I have left that room, but I am grateful for the short visit.