Zora Neale Hurston : Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings : Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Dust Tracks on a Road, Selected Articles (The Library of America, 75) - Zora Neale Hurston I was just reading an excerpt from Dust Tracks in an anthology and got into a "must read more Hurston" fest. It's been long enough since I'd read any of these books that they all felt new to me.Ebook, read via Open Library.In her books that are mostly anthropology (Mules and Men, Tell My Horse) Hurston is always a participant-observer, and she never fails to be clear/blunt about her point of view, whether that's on the role and treatment of women, the poor, or the politicians. She takes a hard look at race, both in the US and in other countries, and doesn't dance around with her opinions. And every now and then she'll use a turn of phrase that really makes me appreciate her writing ability. (Note of personal bias: my mother is so southern that sometimes I can't even understand her for her thick accent - and my own accent is with me at times. So sometimes Hurston's expressions sound like something my family would say in the way they would say it, and I can't help but automatically enjoy that. Your mileage may vary.)I've tried to add a variety of Hurston's writings in quotes to give you an idea of what sorts of books these are and the variety of styles she can write in and the subjects she's tackling. But I also should note that these are excerpts, and they really need to be read in context to get the full argument, especially in the Selected Writings section. If you have to pick any one book out of this - go with Dust Tracks. It's the oldest one, and her writing is at its best and her descriptions will stick with you.Hurston's bluntness and her politics weren't to everyone's taste, but I think the way in which she expresses herself is fascinating. I can also understand why she's a continuing source of study, because any attempt to sum up any one part/area of her work would require a thesis in itself. Reading Hurston makes me want to read more, and study more of the subject at hand.Contents:- Mules and Men (p 1-268) [orig. pub. 1935, traveling FL and gathering folklore, hoodoo lore in New Orleans] (Advised to avoid the hoodoo sections: those who are upset by deaths of chickens and black cats. And yes, the cat part was hard for me, I had a black cat as a pet.)- Tell My Horse (p. 269-556) [orig. pub. 1938, traveling in Jamaica and Haiti, gathering folklore and hoodoo lore] (Again, killing of various farm animals and a dog in ceremonies. Hurston's commentary in multiple areas makes it clear she doesn't enjoy this.)- Dust Tracks on a Road (p. 557-808) [orig. pub. 1942, autobiography]- Selected Articles (p. 809-960)Quotes and ponderings:Mules and Men, p 66-7 - sample of the dialect and language Hurston transcribes in most of the stories - here a local man is flirting with Hurston, whom he's just met:" "...Some of 'em talkin' 'bout marryin' you and dey wouldn't know whut to do wid you if they had you. Now, dat's a fack.""You reckon?""Ah know dey wouldn't. Dey'd 'spect you tuh git out de bed and fix dem some breakfus' and a bucket. Dat's 'cause dey don't know no better. Dey's thin-brainded. Now me, Ah wouldn't let you fix me no breakfus'. Ah git up and fix mah own and den, whut make it so cool, Ah'd fix you some and set it on de back of de cook-stove so you could git it when you wake up. Dese mens don't even know how to talk to nobody lak you. If you wuz tuh ast dese niggers somethin' dey'd answer you 'yeah' and 'naw.' Now, if you wuz some ole gator-black 'oman dey'd be tellin' you jus' right. But dat ain't de way tuh talk tuh nobody lak you. Now you ast me somethin' and see how Ah'll answer yuh.""Mr. Pitts, are you havin' a good time?"(In a prim falsetto) "Yes, Ma'am. See, dat's de way tuh talk to you."I laughed and the crowd laughed and Pitts laughed. Very successful woofing."(As someone who is not a morning person, a guy offering me that breakfast scenario? I'd be smiling at him too. The bucket is about the same as a lunch pail, or packed lunch for work.)Woofing is defined as (p. 229): "aimless talking. A man half seriously flirts with a girl, half seriously threatens to fight or brags of his prowess in love, battle or financial matters. The term comes from the purposeless of barking dogs at night." Mules and Men, p 119-120, from a story about God and creation:"...Way after while de flowers said, "Wese put heah to keep de world comp'ny but wese lonesome ourselves."So God said, "A world is somethin' ain't never finished. Soon's you make one thing you got to make somethin' else to go wid it. Gimme dem li'l tee-ninchy shears."So he went 'round clippin' li'l pieces offa everything - de sky, de trees, de flowers, de earth, de varmits and every one of dem li'l clippin's flew off. When folks seen all them li'l scraps fallin' from God's scissors and flutterin' they called 'em flutter-bys. But you know how it is wid de brother in black. He got a big mouf and a stambling tongue. So he got it all mixed up and said "butter-fly" and folks been calling 'em dat ever since. Dat's how come we got butterflies of every color and kind and dat's why dey hangs 'round de flowers. Dey wuz made to keep de flowers company."Mules and Men, p 183, in New Orleans Hurston met Luke Turner, who said he was Marie Laveau's nephew. Turner on Leveau:"She was very pretty, one of the Creole Quadroons and many people said she would never be a hoodoo doctor like her mama and her grandma before her. She liked to go to the balls very much where all the young men fell in love with her. But Alexander, the great two-headed doctor felt the power in her and so he tell her she must come to study with him. Marie, she rather dance and make love, but one day a rattlesnake came to her in her bedroom and spoke to her. So she went to Alexander and studied. But soon she could teach her teacher and the snake stayed with her always....Now, some white people say she hold hoodoo dance on Congo Square every week. But Marie Leveau never hold no hoodoo dance. That was a pleasure dance. They beat the drum with the shin bone of a donkey and everybody dance like they do in Hayti. Hoodoo is private. She give the dance the first Friday night in each month and they have crab gumbo and rice to eat and the people dance. The white people come look on, and think they see all, when they only see a dance."Mules and Men, p. 222 - telling about working with Kitty Brown "a well known hoodoo doctor of New Orleans, and a Catholic.":"...It was in October 1928, when I was a pupil of hers, that I shared in a hoodoo dance. This was not a pleasure dance, but ceremonial. In another generation African dances were held in Congo Square, now Beauregard Square. Those were held for social purposes and were of the same type as the fire dances and jumping dances present in the Bahamas. But the hoodoo dance is done for a specific purpose. It is always the case of death-to-the-enemy that calls forth a dance. They are very rare even in New Orleans now, even within the most inner circle, and no layman ever participates, nor has ever been allowed to witness such a ceremony."Tell My Horse; skin color in Jamaica is complicated:p 281: "Everywhere else a person is white or black by birth, but it is so arranged in Jamaica that a person may be black by birth but white by proclamation. That is, he gets himself declared legally white. When I use the word black I mean in the American sense where anyone who has any colored blood at all, no matter how white the appearance, speaks of himself as black."p 282: "...When a Jamaican is born of a black woman and some English or Scotsman, the black mother is literally and figuratively kept out of sight as far as possible, but no one is allowed to forget that white father, however questionable the circumstances of birth. You hear about "My father this and my father that, and my father who was English, you know" until you get the impression that he or she had no mother. Black skin is so utterly condemned that the black mother is not going to be mentioned or exhibited."Hurston notes that this does seem to be changing, and there is a new respect for the black songs, stories, dances, etc. - the culture. That was in 1938 and now I wish I could read a history of Jamaica since then.Tell My Horse, in Haiti, p 335-6:"..."But where is the body of Charles Oscar Etienne?" Polynice cried. "He cannot be alive or this butchery could not have happened. He is the Chief military officer of Haiti with the care and protection of these unarmed and helpless people.""He is the friend of Guillaume Sam," someone answered him."But honor lays a greater obligation than friendship; and if friendship made such a monster of a man, then it is a thing vile indeed. No, Oscar Etienne is dead. Only over this dead body could such a thing have happened..."...After a while someone told him, "But Oscar Etienne is not dead. He was seen to leave the prison before five o'clock. It was he who ordered the massacre. He has taken refuge in the Dominican legation. He will not come out for any reason at all."...Polynice rushed to the Dominican legation and dragged out the cringing Etienne who went limp with terror when he saw the awful face of the father of the Polynices. He mumbled "mistakes" and "misunderstanding" and placed the blame upon President Vilbrun Sam......He [Polynice] dragged him to the sidewalk and gave him three calming bullets, one for each of his murdered sons and stepped over the dead body where it lay and strode off. The crowd followed him to the home of Etienne where they stripped it first and then leveled it to its foundation. In their rage they left nothing standing that one might say "Here is the remains of the house of Etienne who betrayed and slaughtered defenseless men under his protection for the crime of difference of politics." "Oscar Etienne was police chief under presidency of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam.You can read the entire chapter called The Black Joan of Arc (from Tell My Horse, p. 360) here. (At least as of 4/2/2013)Tell My Horse, p 398:"Everybody knows that La Gonave is a whale that lingered so long in Haitian waters that he became an island. He bears a sleeping woman on his back. Any late afternoon anyone in Port-au-Prince who looks out to sea can see her lying here on her back with her hands folded across her middle sleeping peacefully. It is said that the Haitians prayed to Dumballa for peace and prosperity. ...so he sent his woman Cilla with a message to his beloved Haitians. ...The whale performed everything that the Master of Waters commanded him. He rode Madame Cilla so quickly and so gently that she fell asleep, and did not know that she arrived at her destination. The whale dated not wake her to tell her that she was in Haiti. So every day he swims far out to sea and visits with his friends. But at sundown he creeps back into the harbor so that Madame Cilla may land if she should awake. She has the formula of peace in her sleeping hand. When she wakes up, she will give it to the people."Quote from Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism by John Carlos Rowe, about William Seabrook's vs Hurston's version of stories.(Added more Tell My Horse quotes here, because the chapter on Zombies was fascinating.)(Currently skipped over Dust Tracks (see over there for quotes) - I own that book, and want to read the Selected Writings - ebook set to expire soon.)p 836- Characteristics of Negro Expression:"Negro folklore is not a thing of the past. It is still in the making. Its great variety shows the adaptability of the black man: nothing is too old or too new, domestic or foreign, high or low, for his use. God and the Devil are paired, and are treated no more reverently than Rockefeller and Ford. Both of these men are prominent in folklore, Ford being particularly strong, and they talk and act like good-natured stevedores or mill-hands. Ole Massa is sometimes a smart man and often a fool. The automobile is ranged alongside of the ox-cart. The angels and the apostles walk and talk like section hands. And through it all walks Jack, the greatest culture hero of the South; Jack beats them all - even the Devil, who is often smarter than God."p 839 - Characteristics of Negro Expression - relating to their own culture (within a discussion about the Negro mimicking white culture, which used to be a trope to denigrate the "lack of culture" - which now seems a ridiculous and really old-idiot-white accusation, to me anyway):"...Some refuse to countenance Negro music on the grounds that it is niggerism, and for that reason should be done away with. Roland Hayes was thoroughly denounced for singing spirituals until he was accepted by white audiences. Langston Hughes is not considered a poet by this group because he writes of the man in the ditch, who is more numerous and real among us than any other."p 845 - Characteristics of Negro Expression:"The spirituals that have been sung around the world are Negroid to be sure, but so full of musicians' tricks that Negro congregations are highly entertained when they hear their old songs so changed. They never use the new style songs, and these are never heard unless perchance some daughter or son has been off to college and returns with one of the old songs with its face lifted, so to speak.I am of the opinion that this trick style of delivery was originated by the Fisk Singers; Tuskeegee and Hampton followed suit and have helped spread this misconception of Negro spirituals. This Glee Club style has gone on so long and become so fixed among concert singers that it is considered quite authentic. But I say again, that not one concert singer in the world is singing the songs as the Negro songmakers sing them.If anyone wishes to prove the truth of this let him step into some unfashionable Negro church and hear for himself."Again, Hurston is not shy about pointing out groups that she feels are - well, not 'doing it wrong,' but doing it one way and calling it traditional, or the same as traditional. She gives a lot more examples of various attempts to put on a show of black culture that the people originating the music/dance/etc. wouldn't recognize.p 904-5 - The Sanctified Church:"They say of that type of preacher, "Why he don't preach at all. He just lectures." And the way they say "lecture" makes it sounds like horse-stealing. "Why, he sound like a white man preaching." There is a great respect for the white man as a lawgiver, banker, builder and the like, but the folk Negro do not crave his religion at all. They are not angry about it, they merely pity him because it is generally held that he can't do any better that way. But the Negro who imitates the whites comes in for spitting scorn. So they let him have his big solemn church all to himself while they go on making their songs and music and dance motions to go along with it, and shooting new life into American music. I say American music because it has long been established that the tunes from the street and the church change places often. So they go on unknowingly influencing American music and enjoying themselves hugely while doing so, in spire of the derision from the outside."p 907-8 - Art and Such, Hurston on "this race attitude":"It was assumed that no Negro brain could ever grasp the curriculum of a white college, so the black man who did had come by some white folk's brain by accident and there was bound to be conflict between his dark body and his white mind. ...In spite of the thousands and thousands of Negro graduates of good colleges, in spire of hundreds of graduates of New England and Western Colleges, there are grey-haired graduates of New England colleges still clutching at the vapors of uniqueness. Despite the fact that Negroes have distinguished themselves in every major field of activity in the nation some of the left-overs still grab at the mangle of "Race Leader." ...In the very face of a situation as different from the 1880s as chalk is from cheese, they stand around and mouth the same trite phrases, and try their practiced-best to look sad. They call spirituals "Our Sorrow Songs" and other such tomfoolery in an effort to get into the spotlight if possible without having ever done anything to improve education, industry, invention, art and never having uttered a quotable line. Though he is being jostled about these days and paid scant attention, the Race Man is still with us - he and his Reconstruction pulings. His job is to rush around seeking for something he can resent...."Ought I not to be singing of our sorrows? That is what is expected of me and I shall be considered forgetful of our past and present. If I do not some will even call me a coward. The one subject for a Negro is the Race and its sufferings and so the song of the mornings [Hurston's example here of inspired, creative art] must be choked back. I will write of a lynching instead." So the same old theme, the same old phrases get done again to the detriment of art. To him no Negro exists as an individual - he exists only as another tragic unit of the Race."p 909 - Art and Such:"Though it is not widely known, there is a house in Fernandina, Florida whose interior is beautifully decorated in original wood carving. It is the work of the late Brooks Thompson who was born a slave. Without ever having known anything about African Art, he has achieved something very close to African concepts on the walls, doors and ceilings of three rooms. His doors are things of wondrous beauty. The greater part of the work was done after he was in his seventies. "The feeling just came and I did it," is his explanation of how the carpenter turned wood-carver in his old age."Some of the articles in Selected Writing available to read online (note, I have not checked each of them for 100% accuracy with this text):Characteristics of Negro ExpressionThe Pet Negro SystemHigh John de ConquerWhat White Publishers Won't PrintCourt Order Can't Make Races Mix - 1955 (This was a highly controversial stance, as you can imagine.)