- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 Oct. 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140187995
- ISBN-13: 978-0140187991
- Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 277,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Just Above My Head (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Oct 1994
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
About the Author
Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin had an early career as a teenage preacher. He lived in Paris from 1948-1956 and his first novels, the autobiographical GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN and GIOVANNI'S ROOM established him as a promising novelist and anticipated some of the themes of his later works, such as racism and sexuality. He became a prominent spokesperson for racial equality, especially during the civil rights movement. He lived in France during his last years. Baldwin died in 1987.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
THE damn'd blood burst, first through his nostrils, then pounded through the veins in his neck, the scarlet torrent exploded through his mouth, it reached his eyes and blinded him, and brought Arthur down, down, down, down, down. Read the first page Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
Stylistically, Baldwin would make a brilliant subject for further or deeper study; his peculiarities of syntax and structure are something you'll either love or find frustrating. So why no five stars - I found some of the philosophising passages dull and ponderous. The actual novel at 600 words could have been more rigourously edited - although I'm not adverse to a good long one, this stretched me slightly... and I actually wanted it to finish. If the emphasis had stayed more with the narrative, the stories of peanut and Crunch for example in the way that the characterisation was detailed and fluid in 'Just Above My Head', I would have been more satisfied. Try the latter first - it's more condensed and immediate with just the right mixture of horror and beauty.
All this aside, Baldwin is my find of the decade so far and the elements which prevented me from awarding this five stars will certainly not prevent me from investigating this long lost genius further. I'm amazed he's not famous, or that the narratives haven't been converted into film - perhaps symptomatic of a world which despite a superficiality of acceptance, still prefers 'gay lite' and 'black lite'.
It opens with a man mourning the death of his brother. Each sentence is filled with grief. It's clear that this isn't going to be an easy read but also clear is that Baldwin has put his heart and soul into every word.
This is simply one of the best books I've ever read. It's THE James Baldwin novel and a deserved candidate for the "Great American Novel." Stunning.
The novel is in the first person and apart from two pages (548-551 in my edition that counts 557 pages) the man telling the story is Hall Montana, the elder brother of the main character Arthur Montana. The two pages are at the end of the novel and then for this very short moment Jimmy Miller, the friend and lover of Arthur Montana, is taking over. I can see two reasons why the author chose that first person story telling from cover to cover.
The first and most important one is to be able to explore the psychology of the characters, of the narrator of course but also of the other characters by making them tell their stories or their sides of the story to the narrator. This is artificial of course, but that's the main difference with Richard Wright: events are not the main substance of the novel but the prompters of psychological reactions and exploration. Thus Hall Montana has to be the confidant of all the characters, particularly his younger brother. This is a story telling trick in many ways but it gives the novel its second characteristic.
The book has a tremendous autobiographical dimension which is supposed to make us believe the story which at times does not correspond to Hall Montana's possible knowledge, for example Paris, though the author of the novel does know Paris like both sides of his right hand. This is the great danger of this novel and it is essential not to fall in such an easy and gaping trap.
Any attempt at trying to say or believe that this is James Baldwin's life would be completely misguided.Read more ›
It's told by Hall Montana who, writing in his forties, is trying to reclaim the memory of that period - and the memory of his beloved younger brother Arthur, who dies young. The story centres around Arthur, a talented gospel singer who is destined to become famous in his mid-twenties. Arthur has a teenage love affair with an older member of his gospel group, Crunch; it's a first love, and like most first loves it subsequently shapes his approach to his homosexuality: these passages are beautifully evoked, full of tenderness and passion - few writers can describe love-making with such beauty. But Crunch, like Hall and other members of the gospel group, are drafted into the Korean war, and Arthur's forced to go it alone. For large chunks of the narrative he is absent, on tour, abroad, and we could be forgiven for thinking the novel was more about Hall and his circle than Arthur; we catch up with him from time to time, and he re-emerges at the end to take centre stage again.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very atmospheric novel. One can hear the singing and sighing of the Black Pentecostal church, can sell the toilet, taste the kind of food someone has eaten and which... Read morePublished on 11 Jun. 2013 by Mr. D. P. Jay
...but not the last after this amazing journey where love and family are central to survival in the exploration of who one really is a world that still does not take kindly to... Read morePublished on 24 Mar. 2013 by Martin Duchesne