Review: Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (P.S.)

Dust Tracks on a Road - Zora Neale Hurston

Will add more quotes when I reread the book. Eventually. For now, here are quotes from Written By Herself.

I think this book is the best of all Hurston's works that I've read, and shows her strengths as a writer and storyteller.

p. 36

"In the classroom I got along splendidly. The only difficulty was that I was rated as sassy. I just had to talk back at established authority and that established authority hated backtalk worse than barbed-wire pie. My immediate teachers were enthusiastic about me. It was the guardians of study-hour and prayer meetings who felt that their burden was extra hard to bear."

Must now remember to use the phrase "worse than barbed-wire pie" somewhere; it's too good not to quote.

p 40:

"I will not go so far as to say that I was poorly dressed, for that would be bragging. The best I can say is that I could not be arrested for indecent exposure."

Another example of why she is so wonderfully quotable, p. 43:

"...They did not know of the way an average Southern child, white or black, is raised on simile and invective. They know how to call names. It is an everyday affair to hear somebody called a mullet-headed, mule-eared, wall-eyed, hog-nosed, 'gator-faced, shad-mouthed, screw-necked, goat-belled, puzzle-gutted, camel-backed, butt-sprung, battle-hammed, knock-kneed, razor-legged, box-ankled, shovel-footed, unmated so and so! Eyes looking like skint-ginny nuts, and mouth looking like a dishpan full of broke-up crockery! They can tell you in simile exactly how you walk and smell. They can furnish a picture gallery of your ancestors, and a notion of what your children will be like. What ought to happen to you is full of images and flavor. Since that stratum of the Southern population is not given to book-reading, they take their comparisons right out of the barnyard and the woods. When they get through with you, you and your whole family look like an acre of totem-poles."

p 44:

"The wish to be back in school had never left me. But alone by myself and feeling it over, I was scared. Before the job I had been lonely; I had been bare and bony of comfort and love. Working with these people I had been sitting by a warm fire for a year and a half and gotten used to the feel of peace. Now I was to take up my pilgrim's stick and go outside again."

p 44:

"But his looks only drew my eyes in the beginning. I did not fall in love with him just for that. He had a fine mind and that intrigued me. When a man keeps beating me to the draw mentally, he begins to get glamorous."



"I wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in Haiti. It was dammed up in me, and I wrote it under internal pressure in seven weeks. I wish I could write it again. In fact, I regret all of my books. It is one of the tragedies of life that one cannot have all the wisdom one is ever to possess in the beginning. Perhaps , it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If all writers were too wise, perhaps no books would be written at all."


Dust Tracks; Chapter: Concert, additional chapter from Folklore, Memoirs, & Other Writings


p. 804:

"On January 10, 1932, I presented a Negro Folk Concert at the John Golden Theater in New York.

I am not a singer, a dancer, nor even a musician. I was, therefore, seeking no reputation in either field. I did the concert because I knew that nowhere had the general public ever heard Negro music as done by Negroes. There had been numerous concerts of Negro spirituals by famous Negro singers, but none as it was done by, let us say, Macedonia Baptist Church. They had been tampered with by musicians, and had their faces lifted to the degree that when real Negroes heard them, they sat back and listened just like white audiences did. It was just as strange to them as to the Swedes, for example. Beautiful songs and arrangements but going under the wrong titles. years of research accented this situation inside of me and trouble me. Was the real voice of my people never to be heard? This ersatz Negro music was getting on. It was like the story from Hans Christian Anderson where the shadow became a man.That would not have been important if the arrangements had been better music than the originals, but they were not."

p 805:

"...They were highly flavored with Bach and Brahms, and Gregorian chants, but why drag them in? It seemed to me a determined effort to squeeze all of the rich black juice out of the songs and present a sort of musical octoroon to the public. Like some more "passing for white."

p 808:

"But this I do know, that people became very much alive to West Indian dancing and work songs. I have heard myself over the air dozens of times and felt the influence of that concert running through what has been done since."