CBR11Bingo: Banned Books
Sometimes the timing isn’t right. Working my way painstakingly through James Baldwin’s breakthrough novel, I could tell that it was beautifully written, with dazzling prose. I could tell that the story was intensely personal for Baldwin. I have no quarrel with its sterling reputation and its place high up in the rankings of American fiction.
But if I’m being honest, I just could not will myself to the end of this novel. After a moving opening section that largely takes place on the protagonist’s fourteenth birthday, a date which sees him in conflict with his iron-willed preacher father and facing his own inner turmoil as he tries to reckon his nature with the oppressive nature of his Church-based community, the novel went off on a tangent that lost my interest. As John and his family sit through a prayer service, Baldwin takes the reader into their consciousnesses to reveal their backstories.
Frankly, I found this section incredibly tedious after a while. While the writing is beautiful, it is just overwhelming. Baldwin’s talent is suffocating. I found the novel’s focus on religion just as oppressive as religion itself.
I’ve had to set Go Tell it on the Mountain aside, because my inability to connect with it was starting to weigh me down. It’s never a good sign for me when it takes me a long time to get through a novel as short as this one. Last year I read Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk in advance of the film adaptation and enjoyed it very much, so I will definitely give the author another go. Perhaps I’ll even pick this one back up and try again. I’m more than willing to concede that I’m more at fault than the book.