My sister-in-law and I share books, since we have similar tastes. In our latest conversation I suggested a few I'd just finished -- she gave me Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Uhhh...I have to admit, it was not one I wanted to read, and had in fact removed it from my TBR list. Why? Because I tried to watch the Harpo Production in 2005 and didn't feel it (hated it; nod to Sandy's review). The production felt like a piece extrapolated from art twisted for a motive. There was a sense of arrogance to the production, like that you feel when someone thinks they can improve on great art, and goes on to disprove that haughtiness by giving Mona Lisa a bigger smile. I feel vindicated for my harsh opinion -- I don't like to feel like a meany -- by the reviews I just read concerning that debacle:
"Catering to its TV audience, the film largely avoided the more controversial themes of race, gender, and power. "[Wikipedia]
Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly comments, "While the book chews on meaty questions of race and identity, the movie largely resigns itself to the realm of sudsy romance."
New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan writes, "the film is less a literary tribute than a visual fix of Harlequin Romance: Black Southern Series—all sensual soft-core scenes and contemporary, accessible language."
*ouch-ouch-ouch* My purpose in bringing this up is that I had been so turned against this book I was never going to read it, and what a shame. Maybe this will change someone else's mind that turned the channel that day back in 2005.
But, when my sis-in-law said it was her favorite book of all time, I'm always excited to get a recommendation that someone is passionate about. Oh; not Proust, Nabokov, etc., those tomes that intellectuals can discuss together for years...I know they are great gifted writers. I've read them, I get it. But, I can't help but have an affection for the rare humble books that seem to be less about an author's abilities, and more a revelation from their heart. The kind of book so beautiful in its simplicity that it's a piece of the writer's soul that resonates in the reader. Those are the gems you find just once in a while; TEWWG is one of those rarities.
I'm not going to even attempt to describe the book; it would all feel like hyperbole that would cheapen my experience. 10 people can stand in front of a painting and see it differently; read a book and give a different * rating; sip a wine and give you everything from sooty, woodsy, to fruity. If I would have missed this book, I'd have missed one of the best *reading* experiences I've ever had. My caveat here is: I listened to Ruby Dee read this and that made all the difference in the world. Hurston's words come through Dee, and it was amazing. When I think back, I could almost swear my memories are from being in this place with these people -- not just listening to a book. I'll warn that in some spots it's hard to understand Miss Dee, just because she is speaking in the vernacular of another time, another culture (1937) and I don't hear well with one ear.
*FYI: I never did figure out the name...it's Tea Cake, yes it is.
I can't say enough. Well, I could but I would have to write for years. This is "poetry" that EVERYONE will enjoy, and I would highly recommend for teens and children; it will appeal to them not only on a humorous level, but it is without guile and pretense--it relates on a personal level with every one. My husband ABHORS poetry (except for some ditty about a man from Nantucket) and he listened to the whole performance after I had him listen to the dog poem (guaranteed to have every dog owner chuckling). In few precise words, Mr. Collins can be silly and fun, then powerfully emotional and personal. Former poet laureate, Billy Collins, is a national treasure. *My review has already been longer than most of his poems.