"Nothing is more dangerous than isolation, for men will commit any crimes whatever rather than endure it." James Baldwin wrote those words in 1954, while at the same time drafting Giovanni's Room, one of the most beautiful and frightening novels of the 20th century. In it, Baldwin imagines his way into a white man's mind—a tall, blond, cowardly white man, isolated by his own obliviousness. Though the book is widely considered a landmark of queer literature, it is many other things too: a suspense novel, a murder mystery, a love triangle (the narrator is torn between the love of a man and the love of a woman), a tragedy, and an unflinching depiction of the dark sides of whiteness. It's a slim, intense novel—only 169 pages—and while it is now considered one of the most daring and successful artistic gestures in American history, it was initially rejected by Baldwin's publisher, and more than one person told him it was not a good idea. They did not believe the world was ready for a book like this, and didn't believe Baldwin's reputation would survive. They were wrong. The book was a bestseller, and almost instantly regarded as a masterpiece. Over four weeks beginning, we will be reading Giovanni's Room and meeting weekly to discuss it, at a pace of about two chapters a week. For each weekly meeting, I will prepare a brief talk about some aspects of Baldwin's life or a close analysis of something in the text, and everyone else in the club (including you!) will have opportunities to share and discuss their reactions to the novel as well. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
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