Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for Zora Neale Hurston (though I sort of wanted to keep her for Zed!)

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.

H is for Zora Neale Hurston   

I have endless respect for this author and activist. 
Zora Neale Hurston was an American novelist, short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
BornJanuary 7, 1891, Notasulga, Alabama, United StatesDiedJanuary 28, 1960, Fort Pierce, Florida, United StatesLiterary movementHarlem RenaissanceEducationColumbia University (1928–1930), more

Two books that if I were an American I would think must be taught in school - Their Eyes Were Watching God and Dust Tracks on A Road - the first is her finest novel and the second is her autobiography.
How did she inspire me? Oh golly - here we go again. Because she kicked against the pricks and wrote about it. Because her novels are like honey and gold and turquoise. Because Alice Walker adores her and I in turn, adore Alice Walker. Because my best friend turned me on to her when I was in my twenties. Because she was passionate and out of her mouth fell rubies and pearls. Because she knows.

Here is the first page and a bit of Their Eyes Were Watching God.:
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. So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with friends at the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment. The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment. Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song. 

How about you? Who turned you on to a new way of thinking? Feeling? Believing?


Rosa Temple said...

Beautiful. I'm a fan of Alice Walker too and I must read something (or everything) by Zora Neale Hurston)
Rosa Temple writes...

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is a great choice, Jan! And thanks for reminding me of her beautiful writing, too. I agree: Their Eyes Were Watching God is incandescent and should be taught in schools.

Susan Scott said...

That smile! And her beautiful words, thank you for the first page, a real treat ...

Tabitha Bird said...

Believe it or not the book THE NIGHT CIRCUS made me believe in the impossible and inspired much writing flurry in me.

Lissa Johnston said...

Great post and I am inspired to read her work. To previous comment: I also enjoyed The Night Circus. Such a unique concept. Didn't I read somewhere it began life as a NaNoWriMo project??

Yvonne Ventresca said...

Thanks for sharing! Now I wonder who you have for Z?

Love your blog header with the typewriter, BTW.

Yvonne V

Jan Morrison said...

Hi all! Thanks for comments. The typewriter on my masthead is from the Elizabeth Bishop ( check B) house in Great Village Nova Scotia where I did a solitary writing retreat.