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Posts tagged ‘their eyes were watching god’

Ranking The First 71 Novels

I forgot to explain my rankings back when I finished book #70, so today’s post is a make-up post.

This is something I do after every five books, just so you can get an overall gauge on how I felt about these novels compared to all the others I’ve read.

Here’s how I’ve ranked the last 6 novels I’ve read from the Time list. Read more

Book #68: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Here is my one word, highly academic, response to Their Eyes Were Watching God:

Wow.

Five years from now, if you ask me about some of the books I’ve read from the Time list, I’m sure there will be many that I’ve forgotten about. That’s what the blog is for—to help me remember.

But this is one of those novels that I won’t forget. Everything about Their Eyes Were Watching God is memorable—the story, the characters, the settings, the writing—oh, the writing.

Zora Neale Hurston’s writing is so ridiculously good, and the story itself is so strong, I wonder how this woman hasn’t been given more praise than she has. How did she not get “rediscovered” until the 1970s? What’s wrong with us?

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“But their eyes were watching God.”

Before my review of Their Eyes Were Watching God tomorrow, I thought I’d share one more beautiful passage from the book.

Janie Crawford and her husband are living near the Everglades in Florida when a hurricane comes through. They board up in a building with several others who didn’t leave town.

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Politics Might Surprise You

I try to avoid politics on this blog. As a general rule, I despise politics and all that comes with it.

But when an author has unique political views, sometimes I step into the shallow end of the pool a little. That’s the case today with Zora Neale Hurston.

She was a Republican. Granted, being a Republican in the 1950s is different than being a Republican in 2014. But, still, her views were certainly unique in her culture during that time.

John McWhorter is a professor at Columbia University, and he’s called Hurston “America’s favorite black conservative.” Other academics have said she was more in line with a Libertarian. Either way, she wasn’t a Democrat—which generally gets about 90% of the African-American vote, according to The National Review. 

From the little reading I’ve done by and about Hurston, it seems she was very passionate about individual pride and personal responsibility, over cultural pride and “groupthink.”

You even see sprinkles of that throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God:

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Made-For-TV Movies Don’t Always Suck

I don’t watch a lot of movies. I want to say it’s just a season of life I’m going through, but I don’t think I’ve really been a huge movie watcher since high school.

I don’t avoid them, and don’t dislike movies, but I just don’t feel compelled to watch too many. In the last year, I’ve watched maybe 6 or 7 movies in the theater—and two of them (Planes and The Lego Movie) were with my 3-year-old.

So if I watch that few feature films, I can say with absolute certainty I have no idea the last time I watched a made-for-television movie.

Don’t they usually suck?

I don’t know. What I do know is that horribly long lead-in was meant to introduce the made-for-television version of Their Eyes Were Watching God. The film aired on ABC and was produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Halle Berry played the female protagonist, Janie Crawford. Now I get that Zora Neale Hurston describes Janie Crawford as an attractive woman in the novel, but Halle Berry’s level of attractiveness? I didn’t have that in mind. Wow.

So to recap today’s post:

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This Might Be The Best Opening In Literature

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.

That opening from Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the best openings in literature.

The rhythm and pacing of ZNH’s sentences, the truthfulness and conviction in what she’s saying. It’s just a beautiful opening, I think.

And it sets the stage for the entire novel, along with this second paragraph.

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How Zora Neale Hurston Changed African-American Culture

“How does it feel to be a problem?”

That’s what W.E.B. Du Bois asked of black people in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk. It was the beginning of a philosophical change for African-Americans, whose role in American society to that point had been relegated to “the Negro problem.”

Du Bois was one of the forerunners of the racial uplift idealogy. Middle and upper class African-Americans were sick of being portrayed in negative stereotypes, so these community leaders attempted to change those perceptions.

According to our dear friends at Wikipedia:

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