Saturday, May 11, 2013

Now in November by Josephine Johnson

Now in November
by Josephine Johnson
1935 Pulitzer Prize
4 stars - wait until you can bear it, what a downer

Oh just shoot me now! This is possibly the most depressing book I have ever read. 

Sure, in the beginning you might think "OK, another day in the life kind of thing where everybody will work hard and life will have tragedies, but also some bright moments." WRONG!

There is not one spark of hope, not a single glimpse of happiness in the entire 231 pages. 

What we have here is a "dirt poor" family comprised of mom, dad, and three daughters struggling to get by during the depression and catastrophic drought of the early 1930's. Everybody working hard, putting one foot in front of the other and for what? Starving, death, insanity, and aching loneliness. Oh man!

It's a good book, well written,  and I understand why it won the Pulitzer, but a total downer. 

Near the end, the narrator (the middle daughter) looks back over her life so far. Now normally we'd get a respite from misery at this point and realize it was all worth it. Not so!

"I do not see in our lives any great ebb and flow or rhythm of earth. There is nothing majestic in our living. The earth turns in great movements, but we jerk about on its surface like gnats, our days absorbed and overwhelmed by a mass of little things - that confusion which is our living and which prevents us from being really alive. We grow tired, and our days are broken up into a thousand pieces, our years chopped into days and nights, and interrupted. Our hours of life snatched from our years of living. Intervals and things stolen between - between what? - those things which are necessary to make life endurable? - fed, washed, and clothed, to enjoy the time which is not washing and cooking and clothing... Thoreau was right. He was right even as Christ was right in saying Be ye also perfect - and as beyond us.

"We have no reason to hope or believe, but do because we must, receiving peace in its sparse moments of surrender, and beauty in all its twisted forms, not pure, unadulterated, but mixed always with sour potato-peelings or an August sun."

Oh lady, come up for air. 

If you decide to undertake this novel, rest assured that it does go by quickly. Also, if your library sends you an ancient and well worn copy (as mine did) you can at least enjoy sniffing the binding and fondling the soft and yellowed pages. 

1 comment:

  1. 4 stars for a downer is pretty high praise. But right now I can't take any downers, as things are rather intense. But I do love ancient and well worn books, thus my haunting used book sales.