We’ve moved on past most of the discussion on Their Eyes Were Watching God, since I reviewed the novel last week.
But I didn’t want to miss the chance to point out a this cool story around the discovery of Hurston’s grave site.
Zora Neale Hurston died on January 28, 1960. She was poor and living in a nursing home. Some friends and family raised $600 to buy her an unmarked grave, and she was buried in a segregated cemetery in St. Lucie County, Florida on February 7, 1960.
From that point, despite having written a brilliant novel in Their Eyes Were Watching God, and despite having been one of the early voices of the African-American woman in literature, Hurston was pretty much forgotten in the literary community.
Here is my one word, highly academic, response to Their Eyes Were Watching God:
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?
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.
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:
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.
I read Their Eyes Were Watching God back in college, and I remember being really impressed with the novel.
The Wikipedia entry about the novel says it “has come to be regarded as a seminal work in both African-American literature and women’s literature.” Screw that. Let’s just say it’s a seminal work in literature. Period.
This novel is the real deal, and I’m excited to read it again.
Here are a few facts about Their Eyes Were Watching God and Zora Neale Hurston: