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BUY THE ART (COMING SOON)
B.O.S.S. Fastidious Folklorian Fabric #000000000009
“Ah heard about one man out clearin’ off some new ground. De sun was so hot till a grindstone melted and run off in de shade to cool off. De man was so tired till he went and sit down on a log. ‘Work, work, work! Everywhere Ah go de boss say hurry, de cap’ say run. Ah got a durn good notion not to do nary one. Wisht Ah was one of dese preachers wid a whole lot of folks makin’ my support for me.’ He looked back over his shoulder and seen a narrer lil’l strip of shade along side of de log, so he got over dere and laid down right close up to de log in de shade and said, ‘Now, Lawd, if you don’t pick me up and chunk me on de other side of dis log, Ah know you done called me to preach.’
“You know God never picked ‘im up, so he went off and tol’ everybody dat he was called to preach.”
(Zora Neale Hurston – Mules and Men)
For have we not also failed to be lifted over a log, park bench, and/or BART turnstile, and thus have been called to this club of books, in the highest name of even higher literature, mining the depths of the written word for the preserved beauty of language and tradition? For yes, we have found the rhythms of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God – and reading it is going to be cool for the following reasons:
- Hurston was a central literary figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s whose works are typically associated with those of the poet Langston Hughes and novelist Jean Toomer (whose experimental prose piece ‘Cane’ gives Faulkner’s modernist streams a serious run for the money).
- Hurston produced work with a heavy emphasis on African American folklore and authenticity of language, but found herself at odds with many key black intellectuals who instead felt that the sole purpose of art was to bring attention to black causes. This mentality continued into the post-Harlem Renaissance literary tradition including mid-century classics like Richard Wright’s Native Son, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain – each of which served as an influential document outlining the social, political, and religious oppression against and within the black community.
- Yet it was Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God that focused on the depths that can and did exist within African American lives which many have argued has outlasted the more oppression-based leanings of her peers. For is it not the ultimate rebellion to examine and focus upon the self in its entirety, rather than in the context of others?
This round is a fairly compact book, so I bet we can all be on track for a mid-September meet-up and a mid-October finale.
Up, up, up,