Hello and welcome to the very first installment of a series of posts I’m calling, “Holy Crap, You Should Read This Book.” Today I’m going to be featuring the slim, but compelling novel, GIOVANNI’S ROOM by James Baldwin. Want a taste? :
“What happened was that, all unconscious of what this ennui meant, I wearied of the motion, wearied of the joyless seas of alcohol, wearied of the blunt, bluff, hearty, and totally meaningless friendships, wearied of wandering through the forests of desperate women, wearied of the work, which fed me only in the most brutally literal sense.” (31, Dell Publishing Co, 1964)
So why this book? This is a title that I first read during my junior year in high school, when emotions and hormones are both raging faster than a speeding… Well faster than a speeding anything really. The “he said, she said” of locker room gossip was gospel, and students only marginally had time to do assigned reading between football games, drama club and detention. I took the time to read this (albeit brief) book between all of these things (sans detention, of course) and was astounded.
GIOVANNI’S ROOM in short is a story about an American man named David in mid-1900’s Paris who finds himself shamefully but overwhelmingly in love with a man named Giovanni, as well as (what he considers to be) properly in love with his girlfriend, Hella. Lawrence’s language is sparing, his descriptions of their love, both physical and emotional, are more intimations and evasions rather than the blatant display of sexuality readers are accustomed to today (*ahem, 50 Shades crowd, I’m looking at you*) but despite of this, or quite possibly because of this, David’s struggle to understand who he is and how he does or doesn’t love, crept under my skin in high school, when I was trying to sort out the same question, and today, when I’m happily with someone.
The pangs of guilt and lust and denial that come with each interaction with both Giovanni and Hella sparks something so very close to home, whether you identify as heterosexual or anywhere in the LGBTQ spectrum, that it is a shame to not spend the few hours it takes to experience this book. In just 224 pages, it makes us wonder how it is we love, how we define ourselves in private and against other people in our lives. Oh, and if you’re a writer, it’s great for promoting the mantra “Less is More.”
So yeah, after reading it for the second time, all I can say is, holy crap, you should read this book.