Sunday, December 07, 2008
I'd not read Baldwin's novels, despite having them in a nice Lib of Amer edition for some time. I taught his short story "Sonny's Blues" many times in short story classes at TU, and also chunks of a memoir from the Norton Anthology--a chapter about living in Switzerland if I remember correctly? I'll not deny myself the pleasure any more.
Go Tell it on the Mountain unfurls in sizzling prose the story of three generations in one African American family, moving forward from slavery and into the mid-20th century. I can't say much more about Gabriel, John, Florence, and Elizabeth without spoiling the effect of the novel, which reveals in chapters narrated by different family members the entire story of sin, redemption, fall from grace, forgiveness, vengeance, hypocrisy, redemption anew--a gorgeous and terrifying description of cyclical doom in the white man's world, where buildings, streets, customs, dignity, and even God do not belong to the characters.