Perhaps, as we say in America, I wanted to find myself. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people, which certainly does not mean what it says but betrays a nagging suspicion that something has been misplaced. I think now that if I had had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home.
– James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
A good book is a treasure, a sanctuary from an often-cruel world. It softens the blows and eases the soul. At my darkest moments, I always found solace in a book. I remember a stretch of lonely nights back when I lived in Boston. I was just starting to find my way, but I hadn’t made any serious friends, and I certainly didn’t have a boyfriend. After a day at work and an evening jog, I’d return to an empty room, and panic with nothing to do. The idea of wasted time scared me. The notion of moments spent waiting, of unproductive minutes lost and never to be regained, repulsed me. Reading a book was never a waste. Reading was a worthwhile endeavor. No matter how meaningless or superficial the latest copy of ‘Vanity Fair’ was, no matter how insignificant or outdated a Broadway Playbill became, there was always something worthwhile to be found in the way other people used words. And books – those that withstood the test of time – were an entry into a world of beauty.
Those that spoke to me early on – Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald – would become old friends. Not a year goes by that I don’t find myself re-reading The Great Gatsby (usually just as Spring is about to arrive) like some tried and true reference to life. My latest find is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and just a few pages in I realized this was destined to be another classic. Only halfway through it, I’ve already earmarked a dozen pages, underlining as many passages, and re-reading choice bits because there is so much to elicit a rare spark of understanding – the thrill of recognition.
He looked at me and I saw in his face again something which I have fleetingly seen there during these hours: under his beauty and his bravado, terror, and a terrible desire to please; dreadfully, dreadfully moving, and it made me want, in anguish, to reach out and comfort him. – James Baldwin, Giovanni’s RoomBack to Blog