Felicity's Reviews > Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
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's review
Feb 19, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, novel, literary-is-a-genre

This is a quick read, once you've had a few pages to soak into the dialect. I enjoyed the frame, which placed the narrative firmly in a storytelling tradition, and gave us enough clues about Janie's eventful life that we could easily realize it was the life, not the events, that mattered.

The dialogue throughout the book is spritely and delighting, marked by inventive habits of wordplay, and the text of the book itself is often beautiful, evocative, and skeweringly apt. I love the images that pervade it, like bright threads glinting throughout the fabric.

It's short, and much of its work of character and language is expertly begun early and tied off neatly at the end. Therefore, I'm tempted to class it as one of those short novels of jewel-like, novella-style perfection (like The Great Gatsby). However, there are a few episodes that still seem like unexplained detours to me, so it escapes that classification. I'll be studying the book a little more in coming days, so I may have further realizations.

It's an interesting story with well-realized characters, universal relevance, and beautiful writing.

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Reading Progress

February 19, 2009 – Shelved
February 19, 2009 –
page 31
14.98% "Lovely writing thus far. Luminous."
February 19, 2009 –
page 31
14.98% "Lovely writing thus far. Luminous."
February 22, 2009 –
page 78
February 22, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction
February 22, 2009 – Shelved as: novel
February 23, 2009 – Shelved as: literary-is-a-genre
February 23, 2009 –
page 62
29.95% "Bought my own copy, so I am forced to repaginate."
Started Reading
February 24, 2009 –
page 160
77.29% "She's firing a lot of guns she had on the mantel -- language guns, not plot guns. Nice."
February 24, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Evan I probably read it to young. If you live in Florida, they give it to you pretty early. Summer reading before 9th, if I recall correctly.

Felicity Wow. I'm fine with regional pride, but that might be overshooting somewhat. I think age-matching's really important. Many a school-child is turned off Shakespeare, for instance, by a poor choice of when and how to introduce him into the curriculum. I'm reading TEWWG for 11th grade classes I'm subbing, and so far that seems like a good match.

As for me, she won me over at "So she went on thinking back to her young years and explaining them to her friend in soft, easy phrases while all around the house, the night time put on flesh and blackness." [emphasis mine, 12 pages into my library copy:] I pretty much decided at that point I'd follow the book wherever it wanted to go. "the night time put on flesh and blackness". As a poet of my acquaintance would say, "Jesus!"

I also love how playfully the dialogue uses language. The characters' idiom is rife with synecdoche and wordplay of all sorts.

message 3: by Evan (last edited Feb 23, 2009 05:14AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Evan Yeah, I may need to try it again. Honestly, descriptions of it sound like something I might like; if I can just get past those darn memories.

But I think I have to finish Cane first. Man, is it amazing, but it kicks your butt too.

Emily I haven't read this (or finished Cane, actually), but I read one of Hurston's political-critical essays the other day, in the context of other African American thinkers of her day, and I like what I see. I think it will be fun to eventually read TEWWG with that lens on ;-)

Felicity From what I've heard, some African-American thinkers of her day (powerful male ones) thought her work wasn't "political enough". Which annoys me deeply, because I reckon you should read someone's book, not the book you wish they'd written.

Emily Evan, you might consider the audioversion. The first 20-30 minutes are jarring, but then it's unstoppable.

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