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Another Country (2010)

Another Country (2010)

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4.29 of 5 Votes: 2
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0141186372 (ISBN13: 9780141186375)
penguin books, limited (uk)

About book Another Country (2010)

I loved this book. I'm an avid James Baldwin reader and this book is not without the piercing vulnerability and intense realism within conflict that Baldwin is so notably known for. It takes place in Manhattan in late sixties. Beneath the radical liberalness that defines the time, Baldwin populates his diverse characters–straight and gay, black and white, into a world of racial consciousness. The first fifth of the novel tells of the downfall of jazz drummer Rufus Scott, who is with too much soul and yet too thin a black skin. He has been painfully mindful of Eric, his first male lover and an actor, who is caught in a strange bisexual masquerade. When Eric is gone, Rufus seeks consolation in and at the same time transmute his pent-up anger on his white mistress Leona, who is eventually committed to a mental hospital.Another Country is mainly about love—what it is, what stands in its way, and how these barriers may be overcome through suffering and empathy. The way characters come to life is seen clearly as strive for love, through which they encounter many obstacles: race, homosexuality, and gender. American racism is a major barrier to interracial love. The book’s white characters tend to think that when they love an African American, they have escaped or erased their own racism and that their love should undo all the beloved’s suffering from racism. Baldwin, though, shows both lovers in interracial relationships repeatedly falling into traps, especially regarding power and revenge. Neither is easily able to see the other clearly.I think Baldwin was trying to say that African Americans, homosexuals, and women share the characteristic of being “invisible” people. They are invisible in the sense that dominant whites, heterosexuals, and males tend not to “see” the members of the dominated groups, but tend rather to project upon them those parts of themselves they wish to repress. Intimacy between members of these opposed groups are always poisoned and potentially doomed by these barriers. By hiding from themselves, the dominant groups avoid the forms of suffering that are fundamental to being human, and so do not learn to empathize with the sufferings of others. Even when love creates the will to know the truth and to empathize, such barriers make truth hard to know and true sympathy hard to attain.I highly recommend this book.

All for the first time, in the days when acts had no consequences and nothing was irrevocable, and love was simple and even pain had the dignity of enduring forever. It was unimaginable that time could do anything to diminish it.But it was only love which could accomplish the miracle of making a life bearable – only love, and love itself mostly failed.This is not a love story. It was fitting that I read Another Country while camped out under the air conditioner or sweltering in the park or seeking solace by the ocean. The characters, too, were always seeking refuge, always trying to find some relief as they drank cheap whiskey, their skin stuck to the furniture, their foreheads damp, their worlds colliding and falling. The characters are tangled up with each other, muddled, two-faced, broken, angry, and pitiful. Baldwin created such an intense and suffocating piece. I needed a shower after each read. I needed a drink. Baldwin, who fled to a more liberated France while writing this book, explores another side of his home country and hometown. It’s deep summer in NYC in the 50s. There’s jazz, filth, liquor, art. The city – the country – is experiencing an undercurrent of racial tension. But not you. You’re so cool and forward thinking, right? Your circle of friends includes whites and blacks, see? But what if you’re struggling with your sexuality as well as your race? And what if you add class distinction to the list? And denial, guilt, fear? What if there’s infidelity, death, domestic violence? What if everybody is so damn lonely they turn to each other? Turn on each other? What if there was no such thing as “gay” or “straight?” What if you think you’re just so free and so bohemian in your middle-class apartment with your two kids and your husband’s fat paycheck and then it all comes crashing down?What if you never realize who you’re in love with until it’s too late?This book got under my skin. It penetrated my moods. It stifled me. It’s so bogged down in sorrow and anger and it never lets up for a moment. Never releases its noose-like grip on you. And I loved every uncomfortable and unbearable moment of it.Best book I've read all year.

Do You like book Another Country (2010)?

I picked this up and gave it a try, and I just can't. I'm barely into chapter two and I already loathe the protagonist. (view spoiler)[I'm supposed to feel some connection with, or empathy for a man who's oppressed, and therefore seduces a woman and oppresses her as some twisted form of revenge? Not even two hours into the performance (which incidentally is excellent) and Leona has become the stereotypical 'but I love him' battered woman. I've met more than my share of those and they've -- each and every one -- made me feel rage and helplessness. (hide spoiler)]

This is the third novel I have read by James Baldwin. I know his voice now and it is a voice filled with pain, emotion, and a kind of realism about the sorrows of man and woman, black and white, gay and straight, art and commerce. That is a wide spectrum but he manages to encompass it all with great doses of truth and grace.Reading it last week while Black churches burned and gays were given Supreme Court sanction to marry across the land, it was hard to fathom how long it takes for a society to change. Baldwin published this book 53 years ago! Yet, it was all about love, about the trials of reaching maturity, showing the huge gulfs that we all must cross between ourselves and others to reach understanding.

According to this writer, "[James:] Baldwin considered race America’s poison pill. And he deftly portrayed Americans of all colors struggling to concoct their own individual antidotes—solutions that are temporary at best and always crazy-making because, at root, the problem is structural not individual." Uh, yep.His books fuck me up pretty badly. Another Country had me reeling for weeks. I'm probably repeating years-old book reviews in saying so (and I'm sure the impact was much different, this book appearing in the 60's I think), but his writing is so visceral that it feels kind of violent (like affecting), but at the same time is totally sensitive and vulnerable; it just leaves me feeling pretty shattered. He actually writes these genuinely political novels, without taking the easy and obvious road where you start out going “I’m going write a novel about racism in liberal America in the 50’s!” and then shape a bunch of characters and a storyline out of that, clunky soapboxing dialogue in tow. He actually uses his characters to illustrate situations that are messy and complicated and deeply caught up in politics, and in race and class and sexuality and Empire. But you actually have to feel it. I feel like Another Country is asking for this space that calls in equal parts for accountability and forgiveness, (which is pretty crushing for a judgemental fuck like myself to wrap my head around, y'know?). Um, you should read it.

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