Women who love deeply but eventually end up saving themselves?! Why, yes. Don't mind if I do.
After closing this book, what lingers most is the poetry...moreWomen who love deeply but eventually end up saving themselves?! Why, yes. Don't mind if I do.
After closing this book, what lingers most is the poetry of Hurston's bare-bone, simple, but somehow still languid words. The language is stunning, lyrical but poignant somehow. She manages to weave together phrases that shouldn't match - like someone speaking nonsense, saying "The egged belt has been bolted godly and ran toward the earth's core" but it somehow making complete, gut-wrenching sense. They are the words of a woman whose DNA has known deep, cruel, simple suffering. They make sense, and they hurt.
Janie is never angry, but the writing is so superb that Hurston helps the reader find her own anger through good story-telling and a matter-of-fact "this is how things were" voice. She never makes the judgement for the reader, an imperative in classic fiction - as it will stand the test of time, however society comes to feel about American slavery.
Interesting not only as a piece of fiction, but in historical study, this book had me dwell on the generational strain slavery and emancipation had on both the "freed" slaves and their children's children. How Janie's grandmother wanted something more for Janie - something Janie herself didn't want. The freedom to even dream of following your own desires was new, and here we see the first generation of American freed slaves doing just that...but crippled in skill and independence. They were allowed to dream for more, but not taught how to be more. Somewhat like ex-convicts being ill-equipped to live outside of the walls of prison, these black people wander about freed but not fully free - as no human can be fully free without education, skill, and purpose. Hurston reveals that human traits such as wisdom, love, wonder of god and man - that none of these differentiate race or gender. A subtle education in sameness without any brow-beating of the reader. It's such a revelation of the atrocities of slavery, of how being owned is vastly more insidious psychologically than it is physically.
I am also left with one of the last passages, where Janie is talking to her friend Phoebey about the lesson she learned through her two love affairs.
"Love ain't somethin' lak un grindstone dat's de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."
Though we are same, we do not love the same. We cannot judge what we do not know.(less)
What a thoroughly enjoyable, important read! The pace was exactly right. Without any sensationalism or compelling sense of plot, I found myself turnin...moreWhat a thoroughly enjoyable, important read! The pace was exactly right. Without any sensationalism or compelling sense of plot, I found myself turning page after page. One of the things that will always stick with me was that Cather decided to write the narrator through a male voice - and she did it so fairly. I have always revered Cather, but now I know why.
If you don't know her work and are curious about reading this - I say DO. It has a "Little House on the Prairie" feel to it (please no offense - sad comparison). It's episodic in nature...with the narrator Jim Burden becoming our lens through which we hear and know the main character, Antonia Shimerda. A Bohemian immigrant, Antonia learns what life in Nebraska looks like in situations both quaint and terrible.
The reader ends the book with a feeling that Cather intended - to glorify the American west and remind current modernists that life is better when it is simpler, when it is not isolated city-dwelling.
Some of the language is also so very beautiful, it could take even the most non country person and give them a craving for sitting in tall grass and working hard with the land. It's obvious that Cather preferred this life herself.(less)
Though notably cerebral, I can't decide if the book is obtuse or just ill-timed to my current personal literary inklings. Either way, I found it irrel...moreThough notably cerebral, I can't decide if the book is obtuse or just ill-timed to my current personal literary inklings. Either way, I found it irrelevant and didn't finish it. However, the language was beautiful and she's obviously a force.(less)