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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Baldwin

Started re-reading James Baldwin's 1974 novel (his last?) If Beale Street Could Talk - I'd read it first sometime in the late 70s - which I've read that the writer-director of Moonlight is adapting as his next movie. The story itself is tame by today's standards (and by Baldwin's, much less groundbreaking than his debut Go Tell It on the Mountain or his novel on homosexuality Giovanni's room or his essays), as if he was trying to write a more conventional bed seller about a teen romance. The 17-year-old Tish, who has just learned she is pregnant by her 20-year-old boyfriend, Lonny, who is locked up in the Tombs. Over the first third we don't yet know why he's in prison; we do know that his family is sure he is innocent and has hired a pricey (white?) lawyer for his defense. Director (sorry can't remember his name right now) will have a lot of decisions to make. Novel begins w Tish and Lonny conversing thru glass at the prison as she tells him she's pregnant. Do you begin w this scene and then flash back or so you tell story chronologically: from their first meet on playground as kids fighting each other thru their first date (to L's family's Harlem church) to first sex at Lonny's e village apt (following dinner at rest where everybody knows L - a scene that reminded me of lady and the tramp!) and up to present when the 2 families gather to hear Tish' news? How do you preserve Tish's narrative voice: thru voice over? Do you have clear breaks among the various time segments as in Moonlight or go w the more conventional use of present narration w flashbacks? How much time if any do you spend on the back stories of secondary characters esp the parents and sisters of the two main characters? Most of all how do you build the narrative, which is pretty static - mostly back story - for the first third? What's the central conflict? Ominously Tish notes that her friends cal her and Lonny Romeo and Juliet - tho as she says they probably hadn't read the play. There may be an ominous note here; their families are by no means at war but is their romance doomed - and if so by what? Fate? Race? Poverty?

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