#64 Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Cover of "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
Good luck to those of you who will climb into your armchairs with Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s excellent, but the dialect may leave you cross-eyed.

This novel concentrates more on its protagonist than on the plot—and what a protagonist she is. Janie Crawford’s relationships with the people around her may propel the story, but only to the extent that they allow her to find her own voice and her own position from which to take on the world. Janie may have her faults, but she is a person who lives her life in pursuit of herself, independent and limitless.

Their Eyes Were Watching God has a kind of vitality missing from many classics—and maybe that’s precisely because we’re dealing with a character unafraid to abandon her first husband, verbally abuse her second husband even on his deathbed, and shoot her LITERALLY RABID third husband dead. In either case, it makes her a literary BAMF, and well worth the effort it takes to read a 200-page flashback.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

Yes, though I still have the occasional rabies nightmare. And yes, that’s a thing.

Favorite Quotes:

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight…

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

He’s a whirlwind among breezes.

Daisy, you know my heart and all the ranges of my mind. And you know if I was ridin’ up in an airplane way up in the sky and I looked down and seen you walkin’ and knowed you’d have to walk ten miles to get home, I’d step backward off that airplane just to walk home with you.

The stillness was the sleep of swords.

She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her.

Dancing, fighting, singing, crying, laughing, winning and losing love every hour. Work all day for money, fight all night for love.

You’se something tuh make uh man forgit tuh git old and forgit tuh die.

My love didn’t work like their love, if they ever had any. Love isn’t something like a grindstone that’s the same thing everywhere and does the same thing to everything it touches. Love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.

They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.
Read: 2007

#58 Oedipus the King, Sophocles

English: Title page of Oedipus: A Tragedy

Oedipus the King sets the bar high for anyone thinking of writing a book about plagues and prophecies and totally dysfunctional families in Ancient Greece. There’s not a lot of action, but there is a high-stakes game of Hide and Seek between Oedipus and the Horrible Truth about his family. Reality pretty much ruins Oedipus’s life, and he goes on to test the theory that scratching your own eyes out can turn back time.

Turns out it can’t, and I’m actually pretty grateful for that.

If Oedipus were here now, he would undoubtedly tell us one of three things:

  1. Parents suck, especially when they try to kill you. Try not to kill them back.
  2. If you’re a king, and you’ve gone crazy, that’s probably a good time to abdicate the throne. Do your best not to cede your power to an even greater lunatic.
  3. Never underestimate the comfort of ignorance. (Rush Limbaugh certainly never has.)

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

Yes, and my oracle tells me it will continue to top the charts for the foreseeable (teehee) future.

Favorite Quotes:

Time, which sees all things, has found you out.

Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day.

Read: 2001, 2003, 2009