Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Known World

As part of the Winter Reading Challenge, I read The Known World by Edward P. Jones. I was prepared for the moral conundrums inherent in books about slavery, but I was not prepared for the intricate manipulations of the usual issues. In this book you have the expected miscegenation, beating and maiming of slaves, attempted escapes, and immoral and unlawful law enforcement, but then the waters are muddied with black slave owners and other subtle manipulations of the recurring themes. The repeated statement, "I ain't done nothin I ain't a right to," seems to bind the whittling away of human respect.

The writing is mesmerizing, though difficult in the beginning because of the movements in time and place. I found myself having to reread beginning segments to create a clearer picture of the characters and how they related to the flashbacks. Yet, once the characters were established, I found the movements in time and place natural and effective - almost quilt-like without the comfort.

I'm working on two more books: House Made of Dawn by Momaday and The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. The Momaday book was originally on the challenge list and I added The Echo Maker at Zilla's recommendation.

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