Zora Neale Hurston. I knew she was an author and that’s about it. Thanks to this book and to the love Edward M. Erdelac has for Zora, a love for her has started in my heart as well.
Apparently, Zora’s history is a bit sketchy. According to what the author has written about her here, she was born in Alabama in 1891. (Maybe: Zora wasn’t exactly a stickler for dates and would often change them if it would help her get a job, or whatever else she wanted.) She often told people she was born in Florida and the dates she told ranged from 1898-1910. I think this penchant for changing dates and places is a big part of what draws me to her story. How adventurous to travel around, changing your age willy-nilly to suit your needs!
She was not a perfect woman, reportedly nearly killing her stepmother in a physical fight. She often told lies and stories, she went on anthropological research trips throughout the south. She studied Hoodoo and Voodoo, she was friends with Langston Hughes… until she wasn’t. She befriended wealthy philanthropists to pursue her studies, but she soon tired of kissing their boots, every last one of them.
She wrote plays and she wrote books, but she always loved to learn. Imagine a woman like this, facing down Old Yig, (the father of serpents) and instead becoming a daughter of his: The Rainbringer.
Try to imagine her on the road with Alan Lomax, looking to record old folk and blues music, to preserve it for history. Imagine then being played a song that turns people mad.
Imagine that, in her work for John Houseman in a federally funded theater project, she helped Orson Welles put on a play of Macbeth, but Macbeth soon turned out to be set in Carcosa, and she saw the Yellow Sign.
Imagine her in the land of Haiti, where evil plantation owners still exist, and so do zombies.
Imagine her recording the sermons of preachers, and then discovering that they were not praying to God; as she or anyone else understood God to be. Zora, listening to the sermon:
“I dangled like a catfish from the hook of his words, yet I wondered where he would lure me if I went along.”
Shortly thereafter, a creature appears behind Penalty Torah, the preacherman:
“It was like a child’s pencil scribble on paper, or a disturbed calligrapher’s tantrum of flung ink, but animated: a monstropolous gyre of whirling shadow that somehow had girth and depth at the same time. “
All of these situations occurred in this book and I had a blast reading them. What an imagination! What vivid prose! What love must an author have for someone, to spend this much time with them? Now, this love has infected me and I want to learn more about her.
I also want to read more from this author. I already have a few of his books that I’ve been putting off reading and I need to rectify that soon. I’m giving this book 4.5 BIG stars and I only took the .5 away for some typos and in some cases, the wrong words, (tail for tale, for instance.) There were a few more than I would have liked to see. That’s the only negative thing I have to say. I loved this book and now I love Zora Neale Hurston as well!
Highly recommended, especially to fans of the Lovecraftian Mythos, or The Yellow King!
*I was given an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*