February 7, 2008

Zora Neale Hurston: Revisited

I finished Their Eyes Were Watching God last week. In the critical essays I read afterward it seemed like relationships and feminism are the main themes in the book that have pushed Hurston back into focus in the academic world these days.

But the parts I like best actually are the regional descriptions and the way folks talk in 1930s Eatonville and Belle Glade. In the current draft of the "Walk Chapter," I excerpted from one of Hurston's lush portraits of work in the sugarcane and bean fields lining Lake Okeechobee.

It doesn't take much, but there are so many towns that Chiles visited, from Century to Madison to Starke to La Belle, that a one-paragraph snapshot with some poetry in it can make a big difference.

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