Saturday, September 18, 2004

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I think I was assigned this in that 20th century fiction class I took in college. It was a good read, but not the kind that makes me want to read more by this author. The title refers to a scene late in the book when Janie and Tea Cake and their neighbors try to sit through a hurricane.

The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.

As they try to flee the storm they see several instances of wild animals and men seeking shelter together and not fearing each other. Common danger made common friends. Nothing sought a conquest over the other. And yet there are white people who won’t let black people on a piece of high ground with them, and white people who press black people into service at the point of a gun to help collect and bury bodies when the storm is over. That’s one of the messages in the book that wasn’t subtle enough for me to miss.

Here are two more quotes that struck me:

The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor. It was there to shake hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again. So she put something in there to represent the spirit like a Virgin Mary image in a church. The bed was no longer a daisy-field for her and Joe to play in. It was a place where she went and laid down when she was sleepy and tired.

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All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshipped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C. S. Forester

The first of the Hornblower novels, not in the order that they were written but in the order of the chronology of Hornblower’s life. I knew next to nothing about this series before I bought this book for a reason I’m still not sure of. It was an OK read, but I probably won’t be buying any more. Good adventure. Not enough that makes you think.