Essential Salts: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston


December 16, 2016 by T.E. Grau

their_eyes_were_watching_godMy wife Ivy reads a lot. Has read a lot.

Ivy’s favorite book is Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. That carries enormous weight in my world, and in the world in general.

I finally got around to reading it, and opened the book for the first time yesterday. Today, I’m crawling on the floor, looking for pieces of the back of my skull, cursing myself for waiting so ridiculously long.

This is how the book begins. From the first paragraph, I was murdered:

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.”

Further into the novel, at the end of Chapter Three, Hurston offers the world of letters this:

“So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an orange time. But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things. What things? She didn’t know exactly. Her breath was gusty and short. She knew things that nobody had ever told her. For instance, the words of the trees and the wind. She often spoke to falling seeds and said, “Ah hope you fall on soft ground,” because she had heard seeds saying  that to each other as they passed. She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the blue pasture of ether. She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up. It was wonderful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the gray dust of its making. The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off. She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”

Read those sentences again. Taste them. Take them in and roll them around on the tongue in the back section of your brain.

This is extraordinary prose.

This is how our language should be written.


One thought on “Essential Salts: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

  1. jakemarley says:

    I read this book about 15 years ago, and fell in love with it. I should probably revisit it now, if I can ever get through my To Read pile.

    This is a great post, by the way. I look forward to more Grau Essentials in the future!


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