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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • April 19, 2006

     

    [38] Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone - James Baldwin

    If Giovanni’s Room is an unresolved love story between two men, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone puts its protagonist in the center of social spotlight where ideals of ethnics, politics, and sex force him to put on a mask. Leo Proudhammer, a 39-years-old black man, suffers from a heart attack at the height of his theatrical career, forcing him to abort all ongoing performance and rehearsal. As he hovers between life and death, James Baldwin delineates a tapestry of human life that is terrifyingly vulnerable – through the meticulous choices that have rendered him enviously famous in theater, through the racial and gay covering that have split him into multiple identities.

    There exists something edgy and cruel about a childhood riddled with braving the Harlem streets. Proudhammer often found him in the spotlight of eyes: eyes of children who outjocked him, eyes of the white cops toward whom he felt a rush of murderous hatred, and the tell-tale eyes of the older folks who suspected of his sexuality. The prose sustains a tincture of anguish, a tinge of paranoid, of being black in a society that at times seems poised on the brink of unstoppable racial war owing the ludicrous demands to cover stereotype associated with both race and sexuality.

    The theatrical industry which Proudhammer desires throws him further in disguises. Ironically it is through the many disguises he wears that he comes to term with his means. Instead of fleeing from the truth, he is approaching the reality. Disguises in a sense help make the truth a quantity with which he can live. In the juggling selves, Proudhammer retains loyalty to a white woman and a young black man. At first he might be most intimidated by his color for he does not appear to know that he is colored. He is met with people’s baleful exasperation as if he is possessed by some evil spirit. Then he begins to be intimidated (and confronted), far more grievously, by the fact of his sexuality. He is gripped with the realization that he has never, in the sexual context, arrived at an understanding of being bisexual or gay.

    Written during a time in which racism and assimilation to white norms are horrifyingly rife, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone brings to vivid view a man struggling to become himself through identities of a black man, a bisexual man, and an artist. Various occasions demand him to cover one of more of these identities in order to fit in. The novel pieces together moments of a man’s life that teach one the price of human connection. Trapped in the wrong time, at the wrong place, and with the wrong ambitions trapped in the wrong skin, Proudhammer’s perseverance earns him a reward that redeems and justifies all that pain, stigma, and bewilderment he once experienced.

    4 Comments:

    Blogger piksea said...

    I read Baldwin's 'Another Country' and found it very intense. There is so much personal turmoil about race and class and sexuality. I found the main characters to be damaged so badly that they were self-destructing all over the place. I think 'Giovanni's Room' is on one of my many reading lists, and I guess it's time to hunt down the list and move it up the TBR pile.

    4/20/2006 8:35 AM  
    Blogger Greg said...

    I'm growing into a fan of Baldwin's. i read Go Tell It on the Mountain years ago then finally picked up two more and am going to read Another Country soon. A great American writer.

    4/20/2006 4:36 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Looks like we've got a fan club going here. :)

    4/20/2006 4:43 PM  
    Blogger bygpowis said...

    Good day:
    I was consumed by "The Fire Next Time" and have been inspired to seek, define and out the fires alight in this time. I want the young to know there is a path to their humanity which they must follow, the way Baldwin followed his road to glory. I'm looking for Baldwin lovers, scholars to help me remind the world of his genius. My first salvo into the universe can be found at http://youtube.com/watch?v=EmxfzHXpYpg. Visit, listen and let me know what you think.

    Click on http://bygpowis.blogspot.com/2007/10/chapter-1-james-mos-def-my-brotha-me.html for more on my take on this giant of a man.

    God bless.bloggerpassword

    10/29/2007 12:31 PM  

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