Mules and Men

Zora Neale HURSTON

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Item#: 127085 price:$6,800.00

Mules and Men
Mules and Men


HURSTON, Zora Neale. Mules and Men. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1935. Octavo, original brown cloth, original dust jacket. $6800.

First edition of Hurston's first non-fiction work—"the perfect book" (Alice Walker)—hailed as "the most engaging, genuine, and skillfully written book in the field of folklore," widely viewed as her masterpiece, highly elusive in the original dust jacket.

To Alice Walker, who discovered Hurston through Mules and Men, she was "The Genius of the South"—words Walker engraved on Hurston's gravestone. "When I read Mules and Men, I was delighted. Here was the perfect book." To Walker, it embodied "the quality I feel in most characteristic of Zora's work… Black people as complete, complex, undiminished human beings"(emphasis in original, Foreword, Hemenway, Zora Neale Hurston, xii). "The first popular book about Afro-American folklore ever written by a Black scholar, Mules and Men so compellingly displays the rich imaginative life in a Black community that Alan Lomax has called it 'the most engaging, genuine, and skillfully written book in the field of folklore.'" Hurston's influence on African literary tradition continues to grow," and Mules and Men stands as "a key text in African American literary and cultural studies" (Wall in African American Writers, 175).

Even amidst the brilliance of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston's "presence was legendary." Trained as an anthropologist at Barnard, she studied with Franz Boas, who "recognized her genius immediately." On returning to her home state of Florida, Eatonville, and in New Orleans, she began "exploring the ways Black history affected folk narratives." Offering several versions to publishers from 1929 to 1934, "the book's core—70 folktale texts—remained the same… [but] not until her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine [1934], had been accepted by Lippincott's did Mules and Men find a publisher." While some questioned her refusal to focus on Black resentment of whites, Hurston was "determined to prove that Black people did not devote their lives to a morose discussion of white injustice." To Hurston, Black folk traditions were always the "more beautiful, the more viable, the more human tradition" (Hemenway, 6, 60-63, 159-63, 221-26). Hurston "embraced anthropology's belief that rigorous and systematic training provided its practitioners with a unique vision of the world… but where she departed from convention was in her choice of subject matter. To study her own people as a native anthropologist ran counter to the prevailing intellectual winds. Further, her blurring of literary conventions with ethnographic data was a challenge of which she was keenly aware. Hurston's willingness to go against the grain and to experiment with new ethnographic styles and methods positions her as the foremother of what is today called interpretative anthropology, or the new ethnography" (McClaurin, Zora Neale Hurston). Introduction by Franz Boas. Containing frontispiece, title-page vignette and eight illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias, many full page; musical scores and lyrics. With rarely found dust jacket: because of brittle paper used, this is one of the most difficult Hurston works to find in an unrestored dust jacket. Blockson 852. Jordan 323.13. Owner signature.

Offsetting from glue (presumably from a bookplate) to front free endpaper and faintly to the half title; cloth near-fine, with a bit of toning to spine ends. Rare unrestored dust jacket with chipping to spine head, splitting along spine folds. An extremely good copy.

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