Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Go Tell It on the Mountain

I read a boring Everyman edition.
Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

This is such a powerful novel; it's not easy for me to describe it. 

The story starts with John on his 14th birthday.  It's 1935 in Harlem, and he belongs to a family that is very strictly religious.  Their lives revolve around the church they attend, and John's mother expects great things from her oldest son who is so intelligent and quiet.  John, however, is not at all sure that he has (or wants) a calling to follow God, and his feelings about religion are complicated by his hatred of his father, who claims to be a preacher and a man of God but mostly seems to use that as an excuse to beat the son he despises.  As the novel unfolds, we learn the stories of John's elders--his mother, his father, his aunt, and others--and we come to understand the family in ways that John cannot.  He, however, starts to gain his own understanding. 

The novel's language is amazing.  It's written in the heavily Biblically-influenced language that was once heard from people, especially black preachers and speakers, who were so immersed in the Bible that they knew every bit of it more deeply and personally than most people do today.  It's very layered and complex, full of allusions--just amazing language.

A great classic novel.  Read it! 

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