Jun 19, 2012
Baldwin has his own purposes for this narrative and he uses a unique and dexterous voice to tell it. That voice, which thankfully avoids the senseless snark that so many writers use to hide any sort of emotional vulnerability, is refreshingly honest, frank, and, most interestingly, ambivalent. Ambivalence is the name of the game here. Readers will notice that many of the book’s sections, which in turn comprise the 51 short chapters, end with curious little moments of ambiguity. Kind of like the narrative equivalent of small, ornately wrapped presents that seem to have words written on them, but which words are too small to read. The reader feels like there should be a clear, unambiguous meaning to the text, some point (“This was good!” or “This was not that sweet!”) that he should be able to read. But there isn’t, and that’s a big reason why this text is worth reading. Because, you know, think about it. Would it be interesting if it were simply called Paris, I Love You and all Baldwin did was talk about how much he loved Paris? Or how about if, conversely, he called it Paris, You’re Bringing Me Down and all he did was complain about how much the city disappointed his expectations?