Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Afternoon discussion

17 participants for Friday's discussion.

Moses, Man of the Mountain is actually longer than Jonah's Gourd Vine but read, to some participants, as a shorter book. Others found it enjoyable, but long.

Much of what happens in Moses, Man of the Mountain,

Did Hurston take some of his ideas from Moses and Monotheism by Freud? Moses and Monotheism was first published in 1939, had Hurston read or heard any of the work before writing Moses, Man of the Mountain? One participant pointed out that Hurston had studied with Franz Boas, who was a colleague (friend??) of Sigmund Freud.
Was Hurston influenced by Marxism, attributing some of God's work to man?
Mentu as Merlin, the book in the river as the sword in the stone was mentioned.
Moses introduces the Hebrews to their God, unlike in Exodus and Genesis.
Was Hurston making a statement about having to wait for the next generation for things to be better? To whom is she talking, to whom is she referring?

The language shift that Moses shows puzzled some of us.

  • Moses switching between Egyptian, Minian, and Hebrew. Speaking Hebrew, but switching to Egyptian when he got excited.
  • Aaron and Miriam different in Exodus.
A really good discussion, lots of talk. Friday group rocks.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thursday discussion

13 participants
How would you compare Moses, Man of the Mountain to Jonah's Gourd Vine?

  • Easier to read Moses.
  • Character of Moses was a better person than Jonah.
Why did so many of the Hebrews in Moses want to go back?
  • People not remembering the bad parts.
  • Hurston hammering on human ingratitude, characters were remembering a past that wasn't there.
  • Freedom presents a different kind of hardship.
Parallels to slavery in America, Harriet Tubman known as Moses. Groups of freed people in Kansas known as "Exodusters."

Differences between Hurston and Exodus:
  • Moses chooses not to cross Jordan in Hurston's account.
  • Aaron and Miriam are Moses's siblings (more definitively) in Exodus.
  • Flies, as one of the plagues, different in the biblical account.
  • Plagues in Moses, Man of the Mountain:
    • Lice
    • Hail
    • Water into blood
    • Snakes
    • Frogs
    • Darkness
  • Egyptian Gods could do some of the plagues, blood, frogs and snakes. One funny moment in the book was when the priests could not make the frogs going away.
Parallels to modern politics, parallels to the 1930s
  • There is a Zepho (or a Zephon) in the bible, but not a Zeppo. Is the comic character in Hurston's book based on Zeppo Marx?
Miriam in Hurston:
  • Did Hurston think of women in a negative way or was she making a humorous comment about her times and how women were perceived?
  • The root of the word Miriam is the same as that for myrrh, meaning "bitter"
  • Death of Miriam and Aaron: Miriam came to understand Moses and his relationship to God, where Aaron never did and their deaths reflect this.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday night discussion in July

We have about 35 participants tonight. We're having a good discussion about freedom and other themes from the book.

  • The line on page 590 is telling, where Moses thinks, "He had found out that no man may make another free. Freedom was something internal."
  • Some participants felt that Aaron and Miriam were more sympathetic characters others did.
    • Of them, if being a leader means that you get the trappings of leadership, shouldn't Miriam and Aaron have been given those trappings, or isn't it unreasonable to condemn them for wanting these trappings?
  • Wilderness versus desert: Moses appreciates the wilderness, it brings him closer to God. The desert is punishment.
  • The hero has to go through times of uncertainty, the 
  • What is the role of a prophet?:
    • Incentivize us to think, require you to use the most precious thing you have, your brain.
    • Someone giving you a blueprint to find God.
    • A prophet is one who foretells.
    • Miriam grew up with the Egyptian Gods and couldn't know the Hebrew God, couldn't  have prophecies for new god. 
  • Who was Hurston's intended audience? Did she intend Moses for an African-American audience?
    • Hurston was a preacher's kid
    • Hurston wrote this in 1939, on the eve of World War II
  • History repeats itself as a theme.
  • What did the image of crossing over, crossing water, which are repeated frequently in Moses, Man of the Mountain, and in Jonah's Gourd Vine, mean to Hurston?
    • You bring your baggage with you when you cross over and change.
    • The characters of Jonah and Moses changed in different ways in these two books. 
    • Many of the characters in Moses regret the change to freedom and long for a past where things were certain, even if they were awful.
  • Was Hurston well-received in the African-American community with the idea of many characters espousing a return to slavery?
    • Looking at the group dynamics
    • Did Hurston have a lot of detractors in the African-American community because of her characters and the way she presents Moses
  • Miriam and Aaron believe they were chosen by God, and were disappointed to find that Moses had chosen them.
    • Why did Hurston choose to say of Miriam that she had never been loved by a man? Why was this the label that Hurston chose?
  • How did Mentu and Jethro influence Moses?
    • Mentu and Jethro both poured knowledge into Moses
    • Both cared about Moses
    • Both saw him as a leader, as a "chosen one."
    Moses learned from the priests, "tricks," "hoodoo"? The Egyptian priests did not like having Moses around, fearing  that they would lose power if he learned their tricks.

We are just starting our July discussion of Zora Neale Hurston's

Moses, Man of the Mountain 
 Zora's 1939 novel, based on the Book of Exodus, had some group members grateful for the lack of dialect, but others missed the language of Jonah's Gourd Vine.

Was Moses the actual brother of Aaron, or was he as Hurston proposes, an Egyptian around whom the "adoption" story was added? Opinions differ both in our group and among scholars.

The plagues in Hurston's account mirror those in Exodus: the blood, frogs, snakes, locusts, flies, darkness, and the deaths of the children.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Many, Many Hats of Zora Neale Hurston

As we know from our reading guide, Zora Neale Hurston was well known for her "audacious hats."

Indeed, a Google image search for "Zora Neale Hurston hat" turns up not only lots of images of the author and her hats, but also plenty of other people wearing impressive chapeaus. (Also among the results? A Zora Neale Hurston finger puppet.)

Want to see more photos of authors in audacious hats? Check out this Flavorwire gallery of "30 Photos of Famous Authors in Epic Hats. Because Why Not?" Why not indeed! Zora's in there; do you think she'd approve of the other authors' toppers?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fiction Inspired by the Story of Moses

The story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt has such deep cultural roots that many of us have read other novels with Moses-like characters or themes.  Two came to my mind right away:

Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfuz, in which an Egyptian family mirrors the spiritual history of humankind as a feudal lord disowns one son for diabolical pride and puts another son to the ultimate test.

The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk -  a tale told through correspondence, articles, and text messages traces the efforts of a group of movie makers, including a brilliant young writer-director who has rejected her rabbinical father's strict upbringing, to create a movie about the life of Moses.

What about you?  Can you add to this list?  Please comment to this post with any ideas!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Getting the Blues at U City Public Library

On Thursday, June 23, U City Library's auditorium was packed with summer readers of all ages to hear the gorgeous sounds of the Marquise Knox Band, an event coordinated with the assistance of National Blues Museum.   If you missed it, take a look at the clip below:

Zora Neale Hurston's work in collecting folk materials from Florida and the Caribbean was crucially important to our knowledge of blues today.  Take a look at: Blues Music from the Florida Folklife Collection - you can request a free CD or music download!

And this month we've got plenty of Blues reading material on display by the reference desk.  Stop by and browse.