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Archive: Other Books > [Poll Ballot] Porgy by DuBose Heyward - 4 stars

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message 1: by Joy D (last edited Jan 23, 2020 05:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy D | 3884 comments Porgy by DuBose Heyward - 4 stars

Published in 1925, Porgy is the novel on which the play Porgy and notable Gershwin folk opera Porgy and Bess is based. Porgy is disabled and begs on the streets in Charleston, South Carolina. He meets drug-addicted Bess, who is involved with a violent man. He becomes a positive influence in her life. They live in Catfish Row, a black waterfront tenement, and are harassed regularly by the authorities. There are several instances of unjust incarceration, attempts at manipulation, and assumption of guilt for crimes not committed.

This story is a moving, empathetic portrayal of poor urban blacks in the American South in the 1920's, an uncommon storyline for its time. The primary characters are fully fleshed out, with hopes and dreams, strengths and flaws. It contains one of the most dramatic and realistic scenes of riding out the storm surge of a hurricane that I have ever read. The story is well-framed, and the writing is beautifully poetic.

“But Porgy best loved the late afternoons, when the street was quiet again, and the sunlight, deep with colour, shot level over the low roof of the apothecary shop to paint the cream stucco on the opposite dwelling a ruddy gold and turn the old rain-washed tiles on the roof to burnished copper. Then the slender, white-clad lady who lived in the house would throw open the deep French windows of the second story drawing room, and sitting at the piano, where Porgy could see her dimly, she would play on through the dusk until old Peter drove by with his wagon to carry him home.”

The only difficulty, at least initially, is the dialogue, which is written in dialect. I thought it was supposed to be southern, but it didn’t seem to fit, so I looked it up and it is Gullah, a creole language that evolved during the slavery years on the Sea Islands, located off the coast of the southeastern U.S. As the novel progressed, I figured out the syntax and it flowed much better.

This book is a full of sensory details, providing a vivid sense of the Gullah culture and community. I found it poignant and expressive, fully deserving of a place on my list of modern classics.

Link to My GR Review


Theresa | 7425 comments Oh wow. This sounds amazing! The Met is performing Porgy & Bess this season although I will not have time to see it. Here is a podcast a friend sent me (who sees it Fri night): https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/...

I have of course seen productions of it. Powerful story, fab music.


Joy D | 3884 comments Theresa wrote: "Oh wow. This sounds amazing! The Met is performing Porgy & Bess this season although I will not have time to see it. Here is a podcast a friend sent me (who sees it Fri night): https://www.wnycstud..."

It was excellent. The Met is showing Porgy and Bess on MetLive where you can see it at an AMC Movie Theatre. They show the live feed. Thanks for the podcast info.


message 4: by Idit (new)

Idit | 1028 comments That does sound amazing. Porgy and Bess is so beautiful


Joy D | 3884 comments Idit wrote: "That does sound amazing. Porgy and Bess is so beautiful"
I love the music. My son tells a cute story about being in the chorus for this when he was in college getting his music degree. He was trying to hide in the back so the audience wouldn't see him. He said he felt like it should have been an all-black cast.


message 6: by Joi (new)

Joi (missjoious) | 3822 comments Definitely have 'Summertime' stuck in my head now.....

I saw An American in Paris last weekend-touring Broadway production, and loved it. Gershwin has such a legacy, such a tragic ending.


Joy D | 3884 comments Love that song! I have a biography of Gershwin on my TBR that was highly recommended by a good friend.


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