Saturday, February 26, 2011

And the Prize Goes to W.E.B Du Bois for The Quest of the Silver Fleece

Dear W.E.B.,

The 2010 Ellstrom Award for Literature is late in being awarded. It is not that the decision had not been made. It was clear in my mind that this was a stand-out book based on the criteria set up for the award. That is, it is the book that I liked the most and was most deeply affected by during the reading year 2009. However, I stopped posting for longer than I care to think, and you were left waiting.

So, The Quest of the Silver Fleece by W.E.B DuBois is our choice.

This book is now in the public domain, so all of us are welcome to read it online for free. And it is a meaningful read. I believe that you described the overall affect best, yourself, in the introductory note.

He who would tell a tale must look toward three ideals: to tell it well, to tell it beautifully, and to tell the truth. The first is the Gift of God, the second is the Vision of Genious, but the third is the Reward of Honesty.

In the Quest of the Silver Fleece there is little, I ween, divine or genious; but, at least, I have been honest. In no fact or picture have I consciously set down aught the counterpart of which I have not seen or known; and whatever the finished picture may lack of completeness, this lack is due now to the story-teller, now to the artist, but never to the herald of the Truth.

And it is so, that you are not a writer of fiction who is fully matured and refined. Your sentences do not leave all of us in awe. Your story has some limits, though I have read far worse that were chosen from the New York Times best seller lists. But I am convinced that you have given us a picture of the angst and dignity of two creative young people, living, and wanting to succeed, in a time and environment that was difficult.

The wholeness of the characters, Zora and Blessed, is striking. We empathize with their dreams. We feel for their plights. They convince us. And they give us hope. And I suppose, in 1911 when this book was published, you, too, had those hopes.

Your dream lived within you until the day before Martin Luther King spoke the words, "I Have a Dream," but by that time you had left us for Ghana, finding, perhaps, at least for yourself, a better vantage point to see your dreams unfold. Perhaps, were you with us today, you could help our country build a new and better quest for interracial relationships that address the complexities of our lives today.

Thanks for your soul and your words.



cadh 8 said...

Interesting Choice. The Ellstrom prize is never as predictable as the Oscars! :)

brd said...

Indeed. The Ellstrom award is not subject to populist whim!

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