Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays
by Ernest Gaines
AVAILABILITY: Usually ships within 2-5 days
Publication Date: 2005
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Binding: Hard bound
Topics: Fiction, Music, Race & Civil Rights, United States
Condition: Special Sale
Description: In this collection of stories and essays, the beloved author of the classic, best-selling novel 'A Lesson Before Dying' shares with us the inspirations behind his books, how he came to choose the vocation of a writer, the childhood in rural Louisiana that he continually re-creates in his fiction, and his portrayal of the black experience in the South.
Told in the simple and powerful prose that is a hallmark of his craft, these writings faithfully evoke the sorrows and joys of rustic Southern life.
They begin with Gaines's move to California at the age of fifteen to complete school. Missing the Louisiana countryside where he was raised by his aunt propelled him to find books in the library that would invoke the sights, smells, and locution of his native home.
Gaines never agreed with the authors' portrayal of black people: "either she was a mammy, or he was a Tom," he explains in Miss Jane and I.
From that initial disappointment stemmed a literary career that has spanned forty years and includes five novels, which in the words of USA Today reviewer Suzanne Freeman have "made the smallest truths, the everyday sorrows of hard choices, add up to moments of pure illumination."
These are cherished and popular books like 'The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman', 'A Gathering of Old Men', and the 1993 blockbuster 'A Lesson Before Dying', which has sold more than two million copies around the world, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and in 1997 was picked for Oprah's Book Club. It has been continually selected for City Read programs and praised by critics as "an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives" (Charles Larson, Chicago Tribune).
In the essay Writing A Lesson Before Dying, Gaines describes the real-life murder case that gave him the idea for his masterpiece.
Included here are short stories that transport us to the rural Louisiana of the 1940s and the influences that shaped him-most lastingly, the people and the places of Gaines's own past. This wonderful collection of autobiographical essays and fictional pieces is a revelation of both man and writer.
Review(s): "The artist 'must deal with both God and the Devil,' notes Gaines in this illuminating collection of short stories and 'talks' on literature.
Born (1933) and raised on a Louisiana plantation, Gaines ('A Lesson Before Dying') attended college in California and fell in love with the works of Chekhov, Turgenev and Joyce.
When he began to write, he realized that 'the Russian steppes sounded interesting, but they were not the swamps of Louisiana....I wanted to smell that Louisiana earth,...sit under the shade of one of those Louisiana oaks,' and, especially, write about 'the true relationship between whites and blacks-about the people I had known.'
And while Mozart and Haydn might inspire, 'neither can... describe Louisiana State Prison at Angola as Leadbelly can.'
In his essays, Gaines shows how he explored his cultural influences like a jazz musician playing around a note until he achieved an appropriate artistic form for the truths he wanted to tell. The short stories, most published decades ago, further demonstrate that artistry.
Fans of Gaines will appreciate these intimate glimpses into his literary methods, while readers yet to discover his art will find this a fine introduction." - Publisher's Weekly
"Both scholars and general readers will embrace this eclectic new collection from National Book Critics Circle Award winner Gaines ('A Lesson Before Dying'), whose title refers to his belief that an artist should not value the classics more than the culture he comes from.
The book includes some previously hard-to-find pieces and talks spanning 30 years, with several essays and a lengthy conversation focusing on Gaines's creative process.
Born in Louisiana, Gaines credits his aunt with being his greatest influence. He greatly appreciates Joyce and 19th-century Russian literature and also comments on the impact of music and visual art on his writing while providing insight on his development as a writer.
Five short stories appear as well - the previously unpublished Christ Walked Down Market Street, his personal favorite; Turtles, his first published story from 1956; and three other tightly wound and well-crafted gems. A slight tendency toward repetition does not diminish the book's overall merit." - Library Journal