Saturday, May 17, 2014

Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most unusual, and lyrical novels I've ever read is Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston. This is how it begins:

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. 

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.


Click here to listen to Ruby Dee read an excerpt from the first chapter. (Oops! I realized the first link I provided--went to a different recording.)

This is good medicine.


Thurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in seven weeks, while performing anthropology research in Haiti. Although she was a prolific and successful author for a brief period, she died penniless, and was mostly forgotten, until Alice Walker wrote an article about the search for her unmarked grave, which was published by Ms. Magazine in 1975.

How could the reader fail to fall in love with the voice of the protagonist of this novel?

...The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness. 

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her...

--Zora Neale Hurston

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