Wednesday 29 March 2017

James Baldwin, Another Country

I bought Another Country by James Baldwin on Saturday 3rd April, 1965. I wrote the date on the flyleaf the next day. Into my life of applying for university, working for A levels, digesting my family, came James Baldwin. The same day I bought The Magic Mountain, all 650 pages of it, for later. And on Tuesday 13th April, after a detailed account of my (paternal) grandparents' fugues from diverse hospitals, I quoted Thom Gunn, who was on the A level English syllabus: One is always nearer by not keeping still. This is the kind of civilised being I was.

And now? Bring James Baldwin into my life of reading writing composting planting, etcaetera, in Ireland, and what happens? I become the person who read it in 1965 and have no notion what this life, James Baldwin's, with its sharp poignant divisions, means to me, or meant.

I resist for a while then give in. Halfway through Another Country this time I start to read, the way a horse that gallops can be said, at a certain point, to break into a run.

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