Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Muttsy" by Zora Neale Hurston (1926, first published in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life)

I was recently given a review copy of a very interesting anthology published by Dover Press, Great Short Stories by African American Writers, edited by Christina Rudisel and Bob Blaisdel.  The writers included range from contemporary stars, authors of classics like Raplh Ellison and Zora Hurston and writers who most likely will only be familiar names to specialists in the field.  The more I read on in short stories the more I see an endless ocean of yet to be explored wonderful works.  

I have read and posted on several of Hurston's wonderful short stories and her powerful novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).  I was delighted to find one of her stories included in this new anthology.

Zora Hurston (1881 to 1960-Alabama, USA) was one of the leading writers of the  Harlem Renaissance.   Hurston had a very interesting life.     Born in relative poverty she attended   Howard University until she was offered a scholarship  to attend Barnard college, an elite women's college at which she was the only person of color in attendance at the time.    She graduated, along with her very famous co-student Margaret Mead, with a degree in anthropology.     Her anthropological focus was on  the customs and speech of African-Americans living in the rural south of the USA.    Hurston studied and wrote about people from small towns in the Alabama and Florida very much as her mentor and former professor, Ruth Benedict did in her famous studies of the customs of the people of Polynesia.    Hurston wrote and published a number of short stories and novels.    Her most famous work was her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. ( Halle Barry played the lead character in a recent movie based on this novel.    It is too bad Hurston who died in poverty did not live to see this book made into a movie and to get rich.

I know from my blog stats there is a significant world wide interest in her short stories.   There has been controversary concerning her portrayal of African Americans, the men in her work come across really bad.  Done by a Caucasian author in 1926, I think they might seem racist creations.   Hurston was trained as an anthropologist and that is how she approached the people in her stories, mostly set in small towns in Florida in the 1920s.  These stories are a very valuable resource for anyone interested in African American life in small town Florida in the 1920s and 30s.

The story of "Muttsy"  is to a large extent carried through dialogue and for most, including me, will find it necessary to slow down a bit to understand what is being said.  The story is about what happens to a young country girl, Pinkie, when on her first day in Harlam, she takes a room in a house that she does not realize is run by a once well known hooker.  Muttsy is a frequent visitor at the house, he is in the numbers game though he has work as a foreman over stevedores.  He becomes infatuated with Pinkie.  The story is very smart, very funny and a lot of fun to read.  I loved the ending.

Mel u

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