Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston. 1935. HarperCollins. 336 pages.
As I crossed the Maitland-Eatonville township line I could see a group on the store porch. I was delighted. The town had not changed. Same love of talk and song.
I'm happy to be a part of the Classics Circuit Tour this month for The Harlem Renaissance. Be sure to visit other stops on the tour! I chose to read Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston. A book that has probably been on my bookshelf a decade. A book that needed this tour as a little extra push to get read.
Soon after reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, I went out and bought all the ZNH I could find. (Well, that I could find used.) I just loved it so much. But while I've reread Their Eyes several times I haven't ever gotten around to reading her other books.
What can readers find in Mules and Men? It's a collection of folklore. Stories loosely woven together with the author as a character. Zora Neale Hurston has gone back to her home state, her hometown, to "collect" some good stories, some good folklore for her new project. So it "shows" her doing just that. Talking and interacting with men and women, finding the best stories, and sharing them. It's interesting getting this insider perspective. You'll find tales and stories about anything and everything. From the ordinary to the extraordinary. Stories about God, stories about the Devil, stories about men and women working, loving, fighting, playing, etc. You'll find stories about animals and nature. You'll find trickster tales as well. Men and women getting the best of each other. It is in dialect, so some readers may find this takes some getting used to.
The book is actually in two parts. The first part covers folklore and takes place in Florida. The second part covers Hoodoo and takes place in New Orleans.
I found some of the folklore, the stories, to be interesting. Some I definitely enjoyed more than others. But because they are just stories, just little stories, the book as a whole wasn't the most compelling. The good news is that the contents of each chapter is clearly identified. So readers can find specific stories. "How the Snake Got Poison" and "How Brer Dog Lost His Beautiful Voice" and "How Jack Beat the Devil" and "Why Women Always Take Advantage of Men."
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews