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The Uncollected Works of American Author Jean Toomer, 1894-1967 (Studies in American Literature)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Uncollected Works of American Author Jean Toomer, 1894-1967 (Studies in American Literature).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Jean Toomer (Author)

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This Volume brings together everything published by Jean Toomer, known as the Herald of the Harlem Renaissance Foreword: Well, it finally happened: in the year 2002, some thirty-five years following Jean Toomer's death in 1967, someone finally got around to compiling his uncollected works and publishing them in one magnificient volume. What a boon this will prove for Jean Toomer scholars! For now, instead of having to stumble blindly through the dark stacks of musty libraries throughout this great nation in search of those delightful little magazines of the '20s and '30, where Jean Toomer first published his poems and short stories, our scholars may now find them all under one well lighted roof. Our scholar has only to go to his local libray, check out The Uncollected Works of Jean Toomer, and bingo!, there's everything Toomer ever published right at his fingertips. It is interesting to note how John Griffin arranged Toomer's works in this volume. Instead of grouping them according to genre (poems, vignettes, short stories and essays), Griffin arranged them chronologically. Thus the reader can trace, from decade to decade, Toomer's evolution as a writer--not a boring pastime by any means. The first section (1922-29) contains several poems that Toomer published prior to the appearance of Cane in 1923, as well as several literary criticisms and book reviews. These poems, though published in some of the nation's leading little magazines of the 1920s, were deleted from the Cane manuscript at the last minute thanks to Waldo Frank, Toomer's benefactor and mentor. As for the book reviews and literay criticisms, not even the most astute reader would guess that these were written by the same person who authored Kabnis or any of the other stories in Cane. To the contrary, with such works Toomer (very annoyingly) attempts to assume a commanding intellectual voice that belies his true literary abilities. In a futile attempt to appear a man of letters, he uses a tortured, turgid style of writing, and a diction that is too esoteric to be interpreted by anyone other than himself. As for his sentence constructions, the vast majority of these are of the compound-complex variety, many running to 400-plus words in length, so that by the time the reader has finished plowing through one of these from one end to the other, he has forgotten how the sentence began or just what it was all about. In addition, this first section contains numerous works--two poems, three short stories, a play, and four essays--that are what one might call post-Cane works, and all written following Toomer's introduction to Georges Gurdjieff. These are, for the most part, nearly impossible even to follow, let alone interpret. As for Section Two (1930-1936), a fairly brief section, we find here two essays, two poems, a page of aphorisms, and a short story, which is all that Toomer published during this seven year period. This was truly a rollercoaster era in Toomer's life: he married noted author Margery Latimer in '32 (following their participation in the notorious Portage Experiment), only to see her die in childbirth a year later: then in '34 he married wealthy Margery Content and they became permanent residents of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Still, through it all, Gurdjieff totally dominated Toomer's life. As for Toomer's publications during this period, in City Plowman, a lengthy essay concerning a visit with artist-photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, Toomer comes closest to achieving what he had struggled for in his numerous essays. It is cleanly and plainly written, with simple-to-compound sentence constructions and clear-yet-sophisticated diction. Here, in the first paragraph, he captures the reader's attention and maintains that hold throughout the essay. The final work of this section, a 740-line poem titled The Blue Meridian, celebrates the Mississippi River and America, and obviously reflects the influence of Walt Whitman. It is not light reading, and for all practical purposes, would be his last published poem. Section Three (1937-1950) was the era of the essay for Jean Toomer. He began by printing three of his own works in his converted mill house on his farm in Doylestown, what he called Mill House Press. These are very readable works. Then, a few years later, in 1944, following his conversion to the Quaker faith, he began to devote all his energies to writing religious essays for The Friends Intelligencier. He would publish thirteen of these over the next six years, essays dealing with moral and ethical issues that were praised by Quakers across America. And for good reason: they make for delightful reading, regardless of one's religious beliefs. After 1950 Toomer's health was in decline, and he had become seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol. He would publish nothing else. W. B. Martin: Prof. of English
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Book details

  • PDF | 392 pages
  • Jean Toomer (Author)
  • Edwin Mellen Press Ltd (2003)
  • English
  • 3
  • Fiction

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