"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Monday, September 1, 2008

Giovanni's Room

I felt lucky to find yet another great book last month, this one, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. It's the story of a closeted American man's affair with and betrayal of an Italian bartender, Giovanni.

Here is an excerpt, from the scene where they meet in the gay bar, where David, the American, hangs out even though he believes he is not gay and has been contemptuous of the men there.

"And he took his round metal tray and moved out into the crowd. I watched him as he moved. And then I watched their faces, watching him. And then I was afraid. I knew that they were watching, had been watching both of us. They knew that they had witnessed a beginning and now they would not cease to watch until they saw the end. It had taken some time, but the tables had been turned; now I was in the zoo, and they were watching."

And later, though David admits to "the ferocious excitement which had burst in me like a storm,"

"I wished, nevertheless, standing there at the bar, that I had been able to find in myself the force to turn and walk out -- to have gone over to Montparnasse perhaps and picked up a girl. Any girl. I could not do it. I told myself all sorts of lies, standing there at the bar, but I could not move. And this was partly because I knew that it did not matter anymore; it did not even matter if I never spoke to Giovanni again; for they had become visible, as visible as the wafers on the shirt of the flaming princess, they stormed all over me, my awakening, my insistent possibilities."

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