There's been more interest in James Baldwin recently because of the documentary "I Am Not Your Negro," based on his writings. He excelled at both essays ("The Fire Next Time" remains a classic.) and fiction, including one of the first novels to openly deal with gay characters and themes, "Giovanni's Room." "Another Country," from 1962, is his third novel and it also deals with risque themes, but less effectively. It's a novel that feels very much of its time, while his best essays are as relevant as ever.
The novel is set in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s. It portrayed many themes that were taboo at the time including marijuana, bisexuality, interracial couples and extramarital affairs.
This novel is what I as a girl growing up in Central California fantasized New York was like decades ago during the Beatnik era and what the cool people— drifters, singers and writers—were doing then. Baldwin mixes social commentary and philosophy with descriptions of what's happening with his characters. These are people trying to break out of the oppressive shell they've been shoved into, because that's what their hearts are telling them to do. Now, as an adult in my sixties what is happening with his characters seems ridiculous, over wrought and, at times, nonsensical. Also, the writing is awful, verbose, flowery, silly. The dialogue is stiff and does not really flow.
I love this book. The writing is raw, and it exposes the weaknesses, selfishness and cruely of the main character brilliantly.
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