I was at the grocery store the other day and as I was wandering up and down the aisles I started thinking about short stories and how much I used to like them when I was younger and why I have less patience for them now. I think part of the reason is that I truly didn’t appreciate them as their own art form, and from my young perspective only thought of them as mini-books and stories. I also required less in the way of explanations at the time that I enjoyed them so much.
Novels give you the opportunity to revel in characters and what shaped their experiences; too often I find that short stories scratch the surface and leave me wanting to know more or they fail to give me enough to even understand what the point is in the first place.
I’m really saying all this to say that Zora Neale Hurston didn’t leave me feeling that way, and that she is a masterful short story-teller. The reason I was even able to piece together my thoughts about short stories in the grocery store was because after reading her stories I was able to pinpoint what I’m usually missing when I read shorts.
My first introduction to reading Hurston was Their Eyes Were Watching God. My mom had it on her bookshelf when I was growing up and being a voracious reader there was very little that escaped my attention. Once I was able to immerse myself enough in the thick dialect to understand the characters, I was taken by her writing and how she was able to weave such complex and exciting characters who were trying to make the best lives for themselves in less than ideal circumstances. Hurston’s mastery of language puts you in every scene that she writes, and this author is gifted enough to transfer the depths of their experience to her short stories which are brimming with vibrant characters whose situations will make you laugh, cry, and feel the pull of the tug at your heart-strings.
I really don’t have that much to say about this collection other than get it and read it, or even listen to it. I listened to the collection on audio and I was enthralled from the minute I pressed play. Renee Joshua-Porter does an excellent job bringing the rich southern dialects, Black English and the vibrancy of these characters to life. A couple of stories that especially got me were Drenched in Light, where a grandmother tries to deal with her youthful granddaughter who has an exuberant spirit and zest for life; The Conscience of the Court where a woman knows that she won’t get a fair shake from the court for the assault that she committed, but proceeds to bravely tell her story anyway; and The Six Gilded Bits, which tells the story of a much in love married couple who must find a way to continue loving each other in the aftermath of a break-in. Trust me! You really want to read these stories.