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Book 10

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
  4. Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
  5. Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
  6. Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  7. Chesterton, G.K. — Orthodoxy (183 pages)
  8. Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. — The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (334 pages)
  9. Sendak, Maurice — Where the Wild Things Are (48 pages — though only 1 page will count towards my tally)
  10. Hurston, Zora Neale — Their Eyes Were Watching God (215 pages)

Page count: 2275.

In one of the closest races in a long time—closer even than the current race for Democratic nomination for U.S. President—Their Eyes Were Watching God edged out the other contenders 2 to 1 to 1 to 1 to 1 to a bunch of 0s. Despite voter turnout almost as pathetic as in my last book poll, my readers have managed to recommend another literary gem to me. Every time I democratize my next reading choice, you have chosen a masterpiece for me.

It surprises me that Their Eyes Were Watching God was out of print and virtually unheard of for a few decades. Yes, it is notably distinct from other works by black authors from Hurston's generation, but it certainly is not in any way inferior to them. Clearly, the cause of Hurston's neglect was political. This is a shame that has thankfully been corrected in the last thirty years, as Their Eyes Were Watching God is as good a book as I've read in the past few years.

Hurston's novel is warm, lyrical, and colorful. The story recounts the blossoming of Janie as she matures from a little girl struggling to find who she is to a woman at one with herself. Her journey is extraordinary, fraught with gender- and race-based limitations imposed by her society; she eventually breaks through, finding self-assurance, love, and fulfillment. Hurston skillfully shifts perspectives and style, between first and third persons, between literary and colloquial, between realism and mythology, and succeeds not only in crafting a compelling love story but in making music through her use of words and painting some of the most sensuous and poignant images in literature.


Mar. 31st, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
Whoa. I realize my response was long and more than a little impassioned, but if someone casually, even harmlessly posted an erroneous claim to LiveJournal about something deep within your academic bailiwick, wouldn't you write back at length, too? Admittedly, I've been out of the game for some years now, but as I recall this is what academics do when they feel there's a misstatement out there: they correct it, and offer as much evidence as they can for whatever version of the truth they believe to be, um, true. I am sure my tone was pedantic, but I tried hard to keep it from becoming hectoring.

In any case, I wasn't having a go at you ad hominem, though I supposed I'd be interested in the abstract to write to Helen about claims that continue to boggle me with their improbability. Meanwhile, if I can presume to tender a piece of advice which may offend (though that is not its intent), speaking with seeming authority on issues where one is by no means authoritative will invariably rouse the ire of some crusty old academic, retired or not, and is therefore best avoided. You have a tendency, not uncommon among graduate students, to declaim, and while that can be damn impressive in areas where you know your shit cold, it's a bad habit anywhere else. It's taken me years of teaching bullshit-wise high school kids to lose that act myself.

Ehh, this sounds more hostile than I mean it to, and I'm half tempted to delete the whole thing and leave well enough alone, especially since this isn't even my journal, and because I'm crazy fond of you. I really enjoy hearing about your studies and your progress toward your very own Useless Degree (ironic tm), and wish you lots of luck, prestige, and future disciples. You will doubtless have earned them.
Mar. 31st, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)
It does sound hostile and frankly borders on the offensive, but I'm willing to let it go. I wouldn't have commented on Hurston in an academic forum; as you say, she's not an author I've studied at length. Thank you for the well wishing.
Mar. 31st, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
*sigh* I broke one of my cardinal rules here regarding potential flames, and took bait I should have passed up. Suffice it to say that your friendship matters more to me than any argument. I'm sorry to have offended you, and will drop the matter right here.
Mar. 31st, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
p.s. spwebdesign, sorry for hijacking your pro-Hurston thread.
Mar. 31st, 2008 07:17 am (UTC)
Are you kidding?! I wish all my posts generated this kind of response!

FWIW, your view seems more inline with both the foreword by Mary Helen Washington and the afterword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. They both suggested Hurston's radical right-wing views on the race issue were her undoing—her fall from grace was driven by politics, not anthropology or literature. But then, what do I know? I'm just a casual reader whose knowledge of this subject doesn't extend past the novel, foreword, and afterword; I'm certainly not equipped to argue with an academic on the subject.

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