James Baldwin is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century. In Go Tell It On The Mountain his images of Harlem evoke memories of Harlem. Every nuance of Harlem is captured in the novel - every smell, every sound, the grit, the humid summer days, the cold winter nights, everything. And the story really only takes place over a few days. He is, without doubt a master of subtle detail. In Giovanni's Room, he brings Paris to life in ways that have almost been forgotten. Where Edith Piaf is the voice of Paris, Baldwin is the soul of Paris. Everything from the dirty streets of Les Halles, the old market district with its working class unloading the morning's produce, to the seedy underbelly where young boys turned tricks for their next glass of armagnac.
And this, "Sonny's Blues," in my opinion blows all of his novels, in fact the novels of any other English language author, out of the water. Each time I read it, I hear Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Bird, Thelonious Monk and so many more. I smell whiskey and cheap cigarettes. I feel my collar opened and my tie loosened.
And this is the aim of every great writer - to make you see, feel, hear and smell everything that's familiar. To paint you into cities, towns and countries you've never been before, but make it feel comfortable and old hat through familiar sensations. The character's first kiss becomes your first kiss. The character's dingy rented room in the Red Hook District is your dingy rented room. The sensual, sexual encounter with the redhead at the end of the bar? That's you with the redhead. And that's why we're taking 2 weeks on this. It is a lot to process and deconstruct.
Don't disappoint me on this. Don't disappoint Baldwin on this. Most of all, don't disappoint yourself on this.
(This doesn't go towards my post count)
Do we hold off on this week's analysis? Or save it until the end of Week 4 when we've completed the story?
Or split it half and half? Analyze the first half this week, then the next half next week.
This week's analysis gets held off until the end of Week 4. I'll e-mail everyone to let them know. This story is really long, and only going in on half wouldn't work very well, in my opinion.
Thanks. It is a long sucker. But so far, I'm enjoying it.