Sunday, April 27, 2014

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 224: Zora Neale Hurston, The Fire and the Cloud (#224)

Zora Neale Hurston, "The Fire and the Cloud" (1934) from Zora Neale Hurston: Novels & Stories:

Just the other day--probably because it was Passover--I thought about how the African-American community during the 19th century adopted both the story of the Exodus (slaves traveling to God-granted freedom) and an inverse American Revolution whereby British Canada became a land of freedom rather than the oppression of taxes).

(And here let's have a timely note about the bullshit "patriotism" of Cliven Bundy: a man who certain conservative forces have raised up because of his denial of the Federal government and his refusal to pay taxes, as if that was all it took to replay the Revolution. Of course, the Founding Fathers revolted against taxation without representation; and we all know how Washington handled the Whiskey Rebellion, where another white guy refused to pay his taxes. (Short version: Washington used the army to intimidate the rebellion.) As someone who has read a bunch of 19th- and 20th-century conservative tracts, I enjoy the repeated trope of "opposing the Feds to uphold the real American government/dream.")

That's all prologue to this piece, where Zora Neale Hurston examines Moses in dialogue with a speaking lizard. (Somewhat reminiscent of her speaking vulture scene from Their Eyes Were Watching God.) But... I'd rather talk prologue since I have nothing much to say about this short piece. Apparently Hurston gave it Dorothy West for the new magazine Challenge and anecdotal evidence reports that West wasn't thrilled with it. (For one thing, a letter from Hurston tells West that she can get another story instead of this one.)

I can't blame West for feeling a little ambivalent about this. You can kind of squint and see it as a commentary on the growing power of African-Americans in America, but you might pull a muscle squinting so hard. Sure, there's talk of the generational shift, but... it's a pretty distant story, with not much to excite the reader.

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