A centrepiece of the Harlem Renaissance, these indelible vignettes amass to a thorough masterpiece of lyric modernism.
Toomer's novel of Jim Crow America is...not quite a novel. Told in short character portraits, each vignette builds on the one before to create one living, breathing South. But it's not just the book's structure that defies definition: as you read, prose will transform to poetry, poetry will become song, and song will take on the gravity and finality of scripture.
Reading Cane is like seeing a person’s whole life imprinted in an expression crossing their face as you pass them in the street. Toomer achieves this with a striking structure that employs poems, prose chapters, and song lyrics to build tales of life in the nineteen teens and early twenties, spanning from rural south up north, in overlapping vignettes which read like a lyrical anthropologist describing the neighbors with deep attention and love-care.
" Cane] has been reverberating in me to an astonishing degree. I love it passionately; could not possibly exit without it." -- Alice Walker "A breakthrough in prose and poetical writing .... This book should be on all readers' and writers' desks and in their minds." -- Maya Angelou Hailed by critics for its literary experimentation and vivid portrayal of African-American characters and culture, Cane represents one of the earliest expressions of the Harlem Renaissance. Combining poetry, drama, and storytelling, it contrasts life in an African-American community in the rural South with that of the urban North. Author Jean Toomer (1894-1967) drew upon his experiences as a teacher in rural Georgia to create a variety of Southern psychological realism that ranks alongside the best works of William Faulkner. The book's three-part structure, ranging from South to North and back again, is united by its focus on the lives of African-American men and women in a world of bigotry, violence, passion, and tenderness.
About the Author
A native of Washington, D.C., Jean Toomer (1894-1967) took a four-month teaching job in Georgia in 1921. Here the poet, playwright, and novelist reconnected with his African-American roots to create his best-known work, Cane, a book of prose poetry inspired by the people and landscapes of the Deep South.