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This review is from: Just Above My Head (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
I bought and read this on the back of Giovanni's Room which is one of my favourite books of all time. I found this to be just as good, dealing with issues of sexuality with subtlety and deftness. The characterisation and narratives are stunning. I learned a lot about the ways in which the Southern Blacks viewed the Northern Blacks in the States - something which I was unaware of and found facscinating.
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'.