Rootwork: Arthur Flowers, Zora Neale Hurston, and the "Literary Hoodoo" Tradition

By Schroeder, Patricia R. | African American Review, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Rootwork: Arthur Flowers, Zora Neale Hurston, and the "Literary Hoodoo" Tradition


Schroeder, Patricia R., African American Review


Midway through Arthur Flowers' 1993 novel Another Good Loving Blues, Zora Neale Hurston appears in a Memphis drugstore where Beale Street intellectuals gather. The time is the 1920s, and Hurston the character is in town to collect local folklore. Her appearance in the novel is short, lasting only six pages, yet her presence is a powerful indicator of Flowers' novelistic intentions. Within the plot, Hurston is important as a model of female strength for Melvira Dupree, a conjure woman and one of Flowers' twin protagonists. In terms of setting and era, Hurston, who did visit Memphis during this period, adds a note of historical authenticity. So does W. C. Handy in his cameo appearance, in which he teaches Lucas Bodeen--a professional bluesman and the novel's other protagonist--how to read music. Most importantly, however, Hurston's presence signals that Flowers' text both pays homage to and revises Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. By invoking Hurston's classic text and then amending its plot to inc lude a conjure woman (Melvira), a bluesman (Lucas), and a griot (the narrator, Flowers himself), Flowers reveals his central theme: that connections to African-derived cultural traditions are essential to the spiritual health of African Americans and the survival of the race.

When first published in 1993, Another Good Loving Blues garnered critical praise on a number of counts. The plot of the novel is straightforward, structured on a combination of romance and journey elements. It begins in Sweetwater, Arkansas, in 1918, where ramblin', good-timin' Lucas Bodeen falls in love with the community-spirited Melvira Dupree. Their love survives for several years, until Lucas breaks faith with Melvira in Memphis, spends several years apart from her as the characters pursue individual quests (he to become sober, she to find her mother), and is finally reunited with her in the late 1920s, rekindling their love while riding out a deadly Mississippi flood. This simple plot, however, is elevated to an almost mythic status by Flowers' lyrical prose, which often mimics the blues riffs and rhythms performed by the blues musicians about whom he writes. For many reviewers, Flowers' luminous prose is the key to the book's success. They note that Flowers "seamlessly blends the rich rhythms of the bl ues and a Deep South patois in a literary, lyrical style" (Handman), that his style "flows as smoothly as the music that forms [the novel's] core" (Kilpatrick), that the novel is "full of beauty and magic" (Ducato). Publishers' Weekly applauds its "sonorous voice."

The lyricism of the writing is, indeed, a source of "beauty and magic" in the book (Ducato), but balancing this tendency toward fabulation are the detailed depictions of daily life in the 1920s Delta. The mythic quest/romance story is set within a world of small-town gossip, Beale Street honky-tonks, revenge seekers, violence, lynching, and flood. Thomas L. Kilpatrick was just one of several reviewers to recognize that Flowers "captured the time and place to perfection. Readers interested in this culture will be fascinated." As we shall see, however, Flowers' text does more than simply recreate history; rather, his novel insists that it is vital for characters to understand their cultural heritage in order to form connections with their current community-with the time, the place, and the people who surround them. Historical context thus becomes not just a backdrop, but an imperative to meaningful action.

This attention to antecedents and to community is significant in terms of Flowers' narrative strategy, as well as within the plot. Identifying himself immediately as the narrator, Flowers begins the book by speaking directly to the reader, declaring his own African ancestry and his lineage as a storyteller: "I am Flowers of the Delta clan Flowers and the line of O'Killens-I am hoodoo, I am griot, I am a man of power" (1). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Rootwork: Arthur Flowers, Zora Neale Hurston, and the "Literary Hoodoo" Tradition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.