Baldwin's "The Outing" and the sacral quality of male love
Sex expert Tracey Cox reveals 18 foolproof ways to meet a man in . If you never meet anyone, you're going to the wrong places. .. Justin Bieber and the riddle of the new tattoo: 'Grace' eyebrow ink disappears on outing in. Editorial Reviews. Review. ''Dion Graham's reading requires him to master an array of voices: hellfire-preaching ministers, deliciously profane Harlem locals. Each summer the church gave an outing. Itusually tookplaceon the Fourth of July, that being the day when most of the churchmembers were free from work;.
We often accompanied our parents for weekend retreats and short-lived getaways, and for several summers of my adolescent life, we spent a week camping for Jesus. The summer I was thirteen was my last at Camp Koinonia. Every night that week, a group of slightly older white boys who were new to Koinonia would terrorize the cabin that my friends and I slept in.
They would run around outside, banging against the walls with anything they could find.
They threw rocks and sticks. They slapped their hands and they kicked. One of those boys was also my first, very short-lived, boyfriend.
Much of the story centers around their scheming to get Sylvia away from her strict mother so they can give her their present. He runs into the woods by himself. It is there, in solitude, that he realizes that he does not care for Sylvia, has never cared for her, and will never care for her.
He realizes that he cares only for David. It follows Johnnie as he returns to the larger group, as he sees that Sylvia has been given the present, meaning that David and Roy found their opportunity.
He sees that David and Roy are paddle boating, and though they row back to him, their arrival marks the time to head home.
Johnnie is mostly alone, and returns to the upper deck of the ferryboat.Jason Aldean - Girl Like You (Official Audio)
David joins him and holds him. As such it is the prototype for the same-sex relationships found in nearly every one of Baldwin's novels, but most particularly for that of Arthur and Crunch in Just above My Head, Baldwin's last completed fiction. Most obviously, it refers to a Harlem congregation's holiday daytrip on a boat which travels up the Hudson River, docks at Bear Mountain where the passengers spend the afternoon picnicking and rowing, and departs at dusk to return to Manhattan.
During the course of the outing, the adult members of the Mount of Olives Pentacostal Assembly remind two boys--Johnnie, the pubescent son of authoritarian Deacon Grimes, and Johnnie's slightly older friend David Jackson--of their need to be saved.
Going to Meet the Man (short story)
The boys, of course, are on an "outing" of a different kind. In their first expression of burgeoning sexuality, they have pooled their money to buy a birthday gift for Sylvia Daniels; David in particular is troubled by the confusing feelings that she elicits from him. But most subtly the story concerns the homosexual "outing" of Johnnie who is just beginning to understand the nature of the feelings that he has for his best friend.
Likewise, when he is not asked to preach that day, Deacon Grimes recognizes that despite his having been pastor of his own church in the south, he is being passed over by the Harlem church's hierarchy; his hope of being allowed to "bring the message Sunday night" 42 will never be fulfilled as long as he remains in Harlem.
He is frustrated on the domestic front as well, a bitter exchange with a suddenly independent Johnnie forcing him to realize how much his oldest son resents his tyranny over the family; uncertain what to do, he can only threaten to mete out punishment after they return home. David, Johnnie, and Johnnie's younger brother Roy spend much of the story awaiting the moment when they can approach Sylvia, safe from the watchful eyes of her formidable mother.
It finally does not matter that Johnnie is absent when David and Roy seize their one opportunity to present the gift, for they have only a short time to speak with her, and David's awkward hope of romance is shattered when her talk, parroting the adults', is limited to correcting his spiritual state.
In the meantime, Johnnie, disappointed after having run off and hoping that David would follow him, sulks in the woods before eventually deciding to rejoin his brother and friend.
The Queer Syllabus: “The Outing” By James Baldwin - The promovare-site.info
He finally locates them, however, in a rowboat in the middle of the lake. After a long while they saw him [on the shore] and waved and started to bring the boat in so he could join them.
But the day was ruined for him; by the time they brought the boat in, the hour, for which they had hired it, was over; David went in search of his mother for more money [so they can rent the boat another hour] but when he came back it was time to leave.
What is more, the reader's sense of non-action and unfulfillment is intensified by the quasi-minimalistic and episodic way in which the story is told. Baldwin's narrative moves cinematographically from group to group among the members of the outing, reporting snatches of conversation and scanning the surface of apparently minor and unconnected events. Even the extended description of the shipboard service is broken by Baldwin's play of shifting narrative perspectives. Generally refraining from penetrating any character's interior -- and, thus, allowing his reader insight into motive or cause and effect -- Baldwin creates the impression that nothing of consequence is occurring.
Critical changes are occurring even if they are not immediately ascertainable, particularly as regards Johnnie, who comes close to being the story's central intelligence. The outing takes place on Independence Day when America celebrates a transformation -- the creation of a new, independent entity. And everything about the story bespeaks the liminal, the suspension between two spaces or states of being in which neither is eliminated but neither dominates.
The story begins as the church members gather on board the boat just before it pulls away from shore, and it concludes shortly before docking again that night; the narrative is concerned with the hours during which the members of the church assembly are suspended in a zone apart from the quotidian and familiar.
The boat's passage allows for images of an unseen or sub-surface power that suggest the working of a greater, invisible force: Beneath them the strong, indifferent river raged within the channel and the screaming spray pursued them. In the engine room… the ship's gears… rose and fell and chanted.
The tremendous bolts of steel seemed almost human, imbued with a relentless force that was not human.
The Outing (short story)
The boys themselves are uncomfortable being caught between two stages of physical development as they undergo adolescent hormonal changes. Longing for the time when he will be free of his father's tyranny, Roy exclaims, "Be glad when I'm a man" And the boys' comparing notes on their initial growth of body hair and other indications of pubescence drives Roy to ask, "Now ain't this a hell of a conversation for church boys?
Their liminality is even more painfully apparent to the saints than it is to themselves. When they join the saints for the prayer service, they evince a striking, even an exciting change; as though their youth, barely begun, were already put away; and the animal, so vividly restless and undiscovered, so tense with power, ready to spring had been already stalked and trapped and offered, a perpetual blood-sacrifice, on the altar of the Lord.
Yet their bodies continued to change and grow, preparing them, mysteriously and with ferocious speed, for manhood. No matter how careful their movements, these movements suggested, with a distinctness dreadful for the redeemed to see, the pagan lusting beneath the blood-washed robes. In them was perpetually and perfectly poised the power of revelation against the power of nature; and the saints, considering them with a baleful kind of love, struggled to bring their souls to safety in order, as it were, to steal a march on the flesh while the flesh still slept.
Nowhere is this more clear than at the story's close, where the incomplete, suspended actions of the story culminate in an image both mysterious and sinister.
All during the trip home David seemed preoccupied. When he finally sought out Johnnie he found him sitting alone by himself on the top deck, shivering a little in the night air. He sat down beside him.
After a moment Johnnie moved and put his head on David's shoulder. David put his arms around him. But now where there had been peace there was only panic and where there had been safety, danger, like a flower, opened. In keeping with the rest of the story, the scene is static and silent; nothing of overt significance happens and neither boy speaks. A mysterious transformation has occurred in their relationship, as indicated by the haunting final image of danger opening before the boys like a flower.
Their silence, suggestively, is the result of a fullness of emotion they do not completely understand and about which they do not know how to speak. Full disclosure is made, however, through Baldwin's use of biblical analogues. As their names suggest, David and Johnnie are modern counterparts of biblical David and Jonathan. The narrator of the First Book of Samuel emphasizes the special relationship between King Saul's son and the outsider who comes to court, and who is described as being "ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to" 1 Sam.
The emotional intensity of their relationship is evident when they suffer a parting at which "they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded" 1 Sam.
Upon the death of Jonathan, David is left to lament: Biblical David opens a rift between Jonathan and Saul, just as Baldwin's David precipitates an angry exchange between Johnnie and Deacon Grimes at the very moment that the boat is pulling away from shore This last detail suggests that what occurs is a defining moment in Johnnie's life, the moment when he leaves his familiar moorings and dares to create an independent existence for himself 5 His emotional dependence upon David in this regard is dramatized shortly afterwards.
Johnnie and David wandered restlessly up and down the boat alone. They mounted to the topmost deck and leaned over the railing in the deserted stern. Up here the air was sharp and clean.
They faced the water, their arms around each other. He looked at David's face against the sky.