Discussing “The Book of Harlem”

This short story is similar to “Book of Harlem” in its writing style. In both of these stories, Hurston uses a structure and voice that is similar to old testament texts. From the numbered paragraphs to the use of third person, these stories take on the same voice you would hear if someone read the old testament to you. I can almost imagine a preacher reading this story as a preface to their sermon. I even hear the Amen when the story concludes.

A migration story

Now that I am almost at the halfway point in through this journey, I see a consistent story that Hurston likes to capture. The life of black people who migrated from the south to New York is often included in these stories. Sometimes it is a back story and in the case of this story, it is the main story. All in all, this story tells about the adventures of Jazzbo. He leaves his life in Waycross, Georgia and heads to Harlem. He learns the ways of the people of Harlem. From his clothes to his skills at talking sweet things to women, Jazzbo eventually gains a style that wins him his lady love and a life in Harlem.

Compared to “Book of Harlem”

I think this story was less intriguing. It may be that I had experience with the format from “Book of Harlem” but I think the story in “The Book of Harlem” is a little less interesting. Both stories are intriguing in their writing style and I think in the hands of a gifted performer, they would be interesting to hear performed.

Overall – I continue to be impressed by the depth and skill of  Hurston's writing.

More discussions of Hurston's short stories.