It takes an incredibly talented author to throw a reader into a pit of despair, and James Baldwin is one such author. He's new to me, and when I picked up Giovanni's Room I had no idea what it was about, other than it was set in Paris. It is my 38th Penguin Great, and by far the best.
Last time I felt like this was having finished The Mill on the Floss, and if memory serves, I wrote a brief, fly-by blog post around 2am saying it had affected me like no other book. And this is my second Mill on the Floss moment. I really don't quite know what to say: I'm tired, and very moved by it. It hurt. Giovanni is as real as any living being, and it just hurt. I'm glad to have read it, though believe me, the smile on my face is entirely ironic. I don't feel any happiness, actually. But it's good, and it did what it was supposed to do. I can't keep writing "moving", when what I mean is I'm close to tears, feel faintly sick, and I really just want to go to sleep.
Profound, I suppose, is the word. Perfect, but too painful. Real. James Baldwin nailed it. Perfect, in that respect. Up there with Eliot.
And I want to go to bed, it's late and I'm tired, but I need a cup of coffee or something, something nice, something to take the edge off somehow. A brilliant book, but it cuts.