Three Books


Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith. Doubleday Anchor, 1963 mass market paperback edition. Cover design by George Giusti. Smith’s memoir-essay-critique is an underappreciated masterful dissection of the South in particular and humanity in general.IMG_0047

Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston. First-edition clothbound hardback from J. B. Lippincott, 1939. The dust jacket is missing, and no designer is credited in the book. I picked this up for eight dollars a few years ago. I lent my paperback copy to a student years ago; she never returned it. (Good for her!).IMG_0048

Afro-Cuban Tales by Lydia Cabrera. 2004 trade paperback by the University of Nebraska Press. Book design by R. Eckersley; cover illustration by Lydia Cabrera. Cabrera (1899-1991), an ethnographer, went beyond documenting the tales and fables of her native Cuba: she synthesized them into new tellings, new variations (not unlike Zora Neale Hurston’s folklore work in Mules and Men and Tell My Horse). Cabrera deserves a wider audience.

“Two Queens” — Lydia Cabrera


Book Shelves #23, 6.03.2012


Book shelves series #23, twenty-third Sunday of 2012

Okay. So, a bit later than usual getting this in. It’s the daughter’s birthday and I’m recovering from a Saturday party and I’ve been out in the garden other day and some other excuses.

Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Harry Crews, Flannery O’Connor—and then some books that seem misshelved. Calvino used to hang out with Umberto Eco but that shelf got too crowded. The John Barth should be with the other John Barth books, but they’re all mass market paperbacks in shabby condition.

I like the cover of the Breece D’J Pancake collection:


Lydia Cabrera’s Afro-Cuban Tales is this secret awesome book that almost no one has read. It was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog and the review is so woefully short that I’ll just cut and paste it below:


In a sublime synthesis of traditional folklore and imagistic surrealism, Lydia Cabrera’s Afro-Cuban Tales questions the normative spaces occupied by bodies. Deriving from animist tradition, her characters exist in an impossible multiplicity of spaces, being at once animals and plants, humans and gods. Cabrera’s characters endure trials of biological identity and social co-existence, and through these problems they internalize authority, evince taboos, and create a social code. Cabrera’s trickster characters provoke, challenge, or otherwise disrupt the symbolic order of this code. In “Bregantino Bregantín,” a story that recalls Freud’s primal horde theory, as well as the work of more contemporary theorists such as Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler,  narcissist Bull kills all the males of his kingdom and takes all the women for himself.  The sadistic titular turtle of “Papa Turtle and Papa Tiger” uses the power of his dead friend’s antlers to shame, torment, and torture the other animals of his community. And in the magical realism of “Los Compadres,” Capinche seeks to put the horns on his best friend Evaristo by sleeping with his wife–a transgression that ends in necrophilia. This union of sex and death, creation and destruction is the norm in Cabrera’s green and fecund world; the trickster’s displacements of order invariably result in reanimation, transformation, and regeneration—the drawing, stepping-over, and re-drawing of boundaries.