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Posts Tagged ‘Zora Neale Hurston’

The State of the Political Novel: An Interview with Édouard Louis

May 3, 2016 | by

Édouard Louis

Édouard Louis, born in 1992, grew up in Hallencourt, a village in the north of France where many live below the poverty line. Now his account of life in that village, written when he was nineteen, has ignited a debate on class and inequality, foisting Louis into the center of French literary life.  

En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (Finishing off Eddy Bellegueule) is unsparing in its descriptions of the homophobia, alcoholism, and racism that animated Louis’s youth in Hallencourt. “We thought the book would be as invisible as the people it describes,” said Louis, who rejects any romantic views of the “authenticity” of working-class life. His publisher thought the first edition, two thousand copies, would last years. But hundreds of thousands of copies have sold in France, and the book is being translated into more than twenty languages. The novel, which has earned Louis comparisons to Zola, Genet, and de Beauvoir, is set to appear in English later this year.

Eddy Bellegueule can be read as a straightforward coming-of-age story, but beneath its narrative is an almost systematic examination of the norms and habits of the villagers—inspired, Louis has said, by the theories of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. It’s as if he’s taken the whole place and put it behind glass—like observing the inner workings of an anthill.

Who is Eddy Bellegueule, and why do you want to finish him off?

Eddy Bellegueule is the name my parents gave me when I was born. It sounds dramatic, but yes, I wanted to kill him—he wasn’t me, he was the name of a childhood I hated. The book shows how—before I revolted against my childhood, my social class, my family, and, finally, my name—it was my milieu that revolted against me. My father and my brothers wanted to finish off Eddy Bellegueule long before, at a time when I was still trying to save him. Read More »

Zora Neale Hurston on Zombies

January 7, 2013 | by

In honor of Ms. Hurston’s birthday, this fascinating clip from a 1943 interview.


On the Shelf

February 8, 2012 | by

Zora Neale Hurston, 1938. Photographer: Carl Van Vechten.

A cultural news roundup.

  • RIP, John Christopher.
  • Brighten your day! The world’s most beautiful bookstores.
  • Book (review) clubs.
  • The Rings of Saturn, coming to a theater near you.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, coming to a radio near you.
  •, coming to a store near you?
  • R. Crumb (among others) turns the Western canon into graphic novels.
  • David Foster Wallace’s keeper shelf.
  • Mona Lisa’s double.
  • Pirates of Lexicon Valley.
  • Bloomsbury Group antics: expensive.
  • “If you come, so what? If you don’t come, so what? Will Turkey lose prestige?” Auster v. Erdogan.
  • The museum of human gullibility.
  • “12 Globe-Shaped Foods. Top 10 Famous Buses. 40 Culturally Relevant Birds. 13 High-Tech Steampunk USB Flash Drives.” Why we like lists.

    Ishmael Reed on ‘Juice!’

    September 13, 2011 | by

    Ishmael Reed © Terence Byrnes.

    Seventy-three-year-old Ishmael Reed has been a major figure in American letters for more than four decades. In April, Dalkey Archive published Juice!, Reed’s first novel in more than fifteen years. Juice! tells the story of a struggling African American cartoonist whose personal and professional life is disrupted by the media frenzy surrounding the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Earlier this summer, Reed, who is based in Oakland, California, responded to some of my questions about his latest work.

    Juice! is your first novel since 1993. What inspired you to write another novel after all these years?

    I began this one as soon as I heard about the murders. I was vacationing in Hawaii, and the murders ruined my vacation. The media went berserk over the murder of Nicole Simpson, the kind of ideal white woman—a Rhine maiden—one finds in Nazi art and propaganda, murdered allegedly by a black beast. It was a story that reached into the viscera of the American unconscious, recalling the old Confederate art of the black boogeyman as an incubus squatting on top of a sleeping, half-clad white woman. It was also an example of collective blame. All black men became O. J. The murders ignited a kind of hysteria.

    Juice! does not have a conventional structure. The novel incorporates courtroom documents, television transcripts, and pieces of visual art. It also plays around quite a bit with time. What gave rise to the novel’s peculiar shape?

    I try to experiment. Writing a conventional novel would be boring for me. In this novel, I added cartoons. Cartoons were probably my introduction to storytelling as a child, because on Sundays we got The Chattanooga Times, and I’d read the funnies. A publisher wanted to publish Juice! but decided that the cartoons weren’t up to par. So, at the age of seventy, I studied at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco, and the cartoons improved so much that I now do political cartoons for The San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, City Brights.Read More »