Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Muse of Zora

Dear Zora Neale Hurston,

I'm trying to understand your writing. I want to hear the echos of the muse that you heard and analyze the colloquial phrasing of his voice.

I think that Richard Wright and Langston Hughes heard a different muse and gave voice to a disparate philosophic song. Richard and Langston took on themselves a responsibility that related to the future places that the Afrian American people as a group would have to go. But you, I think, couldn't let go of the grasp you had of where the people had been, not let go without writing it down, just once, writing it down. That, you said in your way, in your tongue, was worth writing.

That, you wanted people to understand, was worth saying in unvarnished speech . . . saying it like it had been said, over and over again by the pepole in the fields, by the people back to the cabin from the big house, by the people no longer owned but forced to sell themselves one day at a time, by those people who could still laugh and talk about the new shoes they got from the devil, who had the ugliest, who had the biggest, who had the richest soil, mule, hat, cat, master. Those words, those stories, those thinkings had to be preserved. That is what your muse said one day isn't it? Your muse said:
There once was a slave named Jack, and oh he could play tricks on his master. But that slave was going to die, so he set up a contest with the devil. The devil said he would give Jack a pair of brand new shoes and a mule to carry him to heaven if he would sprinkle a potion in the spring where all the former slave folk drank. That potion wouldn't make them forget, but it would make them hate to write that story down. Jack got a gourd and filled it with clear spring water. Then he fouled the spring with the devil's potion.

"Good job Jack," said the devil, and gave him his new shoes and the ugliest mule you ever saw. The last the devil saw of Jack he was astride that mule legs outstretched so not to drag his new shoes in the mud. Jack was headed for heaven, but what the devil didn't know was that he stopped by your house, Zora, and gave you the gourd and whispered in your ear, "Now write it down."
Thanks for your work, making sure the last legacy of the era that a part of us wants so desperately to forget, will be passed on.


PS Did I tell you I named a racoon after you? Her husband was named Zorro so it seemed right.


Josh Stock said...

Looks like you got spammed. By the way, I don't see my candidate in the informal poll on the right side of your home page: Ron Paul.

That's right, I'm not content with either of the candidates, their intentions, or their proposed policies. I'm going write-in this year. *Sigh*

brd said...

I understand your frustration, but this is an historic election, I might suggest something different than a Ron Paul vote. However, if you would like to do a guest post here on Letters and Surveys, we would love to have RP's views represented!!!!

cadh 8 said...

I really liked this post, although I am assuming stylistically it was phrased like Zora? I will have to read some of her work, I think I would like it.

As to Ron Paul, now that Iraq seems to be a bit more under control, I could be tempted to go Ron Paul, if I thought he might have a chance win. It would be great to have more information about his tax plan to go with our posts.

I heard in the last Zagby poll that *Sigh* has about 57% of the vote right now!! :)

brd said...

I like this political discussion hidden under the guise of Zora Hurston. Yes, my muse tale is written not so much in the style of Zora herself, but in the style she reflected in her books of collections of folklore from African American people living in Florida and other states. Mules and Men was published in 1935. I think it is her best known of the folklore work. Some of her collections were not published but were found after her death and are available. Wright and Hughes had some literary disagreements with her stylistic choices. She was not moved by their opinions, but they did have negative impact on her success, I think. Her work fell out of favor until Alice Walker of The Color Purple fame rediscovered her around 1975.

brd said...

Note: Another of my posts on this subject is here.
More importantly is this wonderful and smart book by Brannon Costello, a southern lit professor at LSU and cool guy. . . Plantation Airs.