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Go Tell It on the Mountain (Vintage International) Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 2013
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Baldwin lays down the terrible symmetries of these two blighted lives as the ironic context for John's dark night of the soul. When day dawns, John believes himself saved, but his creator makes it clear that this salvation arises as much from blindness as revelation: "He was filled with a joy, a joy unspeakable, whose roots, though he would not trace them on this new day of his life, were nourished by the wellspring of a despair not yet discovered."
Though it was hailed at publication for its groundbreaking use of black idiom, what is most striking about Go Tell It on the Mountain today is its structure and its scope. In peeling back the layers of these damaged lives, Baldwin dramatizes the story of the great black migration from rural South to urban North. "Behind them was the darkness," Baldwin writes of Gabriel and Elizabeth's lost generation, "nothing but the darkness, and all around them destruction, and before them nothing but the fire--a bastard people, far from God, singing and crying in the wilderness!" This is Baldwin's music--a music in which rhapsody is rooted anguish--and there is none finer in American literature. --David Laskin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Brutal, objective and compassionate.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“It is written with poetic intensity and great narrative skill.” —Harper’s
“Strong and powerful.” —Commonweal
“A sense of reality and vitality that is truly extraordinary. . . . He knows Harlem, his people, and the language they use.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“This is a distinctive book, both realistic and brutal, but a novel of extraordinary sensitivity and poetry.” —Chicago Sunday Tribune
Top Customer Reviews
During one night at a prayer service, four individuals stories are told. John, on this day has just turned fourteen years old and is trying to make sense of his life. Gentle, intelligent, he wanted so much to please the man who he thought of as his father. He had potential to expand his life beyond the limitations in front of him. Gabriel, wretched, tortured soul, a man who refused to take responsibility for his actions. Saved, sanctified and fill with the Holy Ghost, his mistreatment of his first wife, Deborah, his discard lover, Esther, his present wife Elizabeth and his son John is what kept him from being the minister that he was in his youth before he fell from grace. Elizabeth, proud and determined, she wanted John to have the same love from Gabriel that he gave to his other "natural" sons. A woman who accepted her circumstances; she has lost her first true love, Richard and was resigned to accepting Gabriel's hand in marriage to redeem her sin. Florence, too proud for her own good Bitter, resentful of her brother Gabriel and now perhaps facing death, she has lived a live of unfulfilled dreams.
Where we they all stand after they haved poured their hearts and souls on the alter? Secrets, dreams, hopes are revealed. Told in a language of complexity full of allegories, symbolism, Bible similies, it is no wonder it is taught in universities around the country. I am on a quest to read re-read Baldwin's books that I have read and read others that I have not. Nobody does it better.
Concerning the book, then, I would like to suggest a couple of things to readers and to those who suggest books for others to read:
1)Don't read this book unless you know your Bible well, particularly the King James version. Without this as your base, I would guess that you'd find the language incredibly dense, and most of Baldwin's allusive power will blow past you.
2)Don't read this book unless you have some experience in life. Again, I would think that the way Baldwin is able to put deep inner struggles and the feelings that rise from hard experience into words will remain lost to you unless you've had some hard experience of your own.
3) If you're not African American, a little pre-reading into the Black experience in America might be helpful first, looking into particularly the Great Migration, the Azusa street revival, and the rise of the storefront church.
4) Practice reading the book out loud!! Many passages were written in an almost oral form, the kind one hears in preaching, with rolling sentences that seem to go on forever. Don't let the long sentences intimidate. Rather let them sweep you along, phrase for phrase, as they're meant to.
I would aslo like to say to the highschool students who read this book, that if I can appreciate it (and I am sixteen) I think you can too.
This idea certainly plays out in the Grimes family of James Baldwin's "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (1952). Except for John's mother Elizabeth, the adult Grimeses have no idea that love, familial love, is supposed to include favor (not favoritism like the father Gabriel's), the idea of blessing each other with good words, good will, and heartfelt affection. Unfortunately, the novel's Black Christians' idea of goodness and holiness is colored by the master's idea of a good slave: docile, acquiescent, submissive, silent in the face of abuse, always needing to prove your worth. "Blessed Assurance" isn't one of their songs.
"Go Tell" presents not only the story of John's 14th birthday, but the past stories of Elizabeth, Gabriel, and Aunt Florence. Whereas Gabriel's spiritual journey--if you can call it that--at about age 21 is born of desperation and remorse after much self-abuse and self-indulgence, John's spiritual journey on his 14th birthday is one of insight and refuge after much abuse and neglect. Gabriel indulges and denies his dark side, projecting his evil onto others. John wonders over his own evil thoughts, seeking to reconcile his light and dark sides.
John's family and people have been cursed by the white-oriented world, and by a false interpretation of the scripture, namely the curse of Noah upon Canaan. Believing this curse, Gabriel in turn, without meaning to, curses his children. Will any of the Grimes family truly experience being, like Israel, heirs to the promises of God, as well as heirs to the world's persecution and heartache?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
James Baldwin delivers a gripping novel about religion and it's roots in the African American community. This is a must read!Published 2 days ago by C. Allison
This is a fantastic book, and a wonderful read about both Black life in the early part of the century, as well as being a coming of age tale for the main protagonist, John Grimes,... Read morePublished 13 days ago by John M. Bloom
Stark and fluid and melodic by turns, "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is the profound and wrenching story of the physical and emotional journeys of 14-year-old John, his Aunt... Read morePublished 15 days ago by ck
For those who don't know of Baldwin's work, get acquainted with it. You are missing out on some of the best reading you will ever discover. Read morePublished 19 days ago by LAURI CRUMLEY COATES
"The Lord called me out, He chose me, and I been running with Him ever since I made a start."
Running with the Lord, running to the Lord, running from the Lord,... Read more
The imagery the Biblical language and the overwhelmingly deep and dark subject matter makes this one of the greatest books you will ever read.Published 1 month ago by Samuel Jean-Pierre