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Porgy Hardcover – November 4, 2008
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The novel was both a popular and critical success, but then as now many note that Heyward was writing from the outside: although his observation was acute, and although his portraits were generally both positive and sympathetic, Heyward was a white man. Given the social climate of the era, he was therefore not fully privy to the culture he scrutinized, and in consequence many have considered PORGY well-intended but intrinsically flawed and somewhat patronizing.
The title character of the novel is a crippled black man who lives in a slum named Catfish Row in the "Negro Quarters" of 1920s Charleston. Heyward paints the slum in colorful terms; no less so are the characters. Unable to work, Porgy exists as a beggar, using a goat cart to travel the area, and so pitiful is his physical condition that his earnings allow him enough for his room, his food, and the occasional crap game. At one such game a stevedore named Crown murders a fellow player--and in time Crown's woman, Bess, stumbles destitute into Catfish Row and Porgy takes her in.
Most readers of PORGY are likely to come to the novel from the celebrated opera PORGY AND BESS and will be quite surprised to discover that while Bess does indeed figure in the novel, neither she nor her romance with Porgy forms the focus of the book.Read more ›
Since I'm a Black person who grew up in Charleston, I'm very familiar with the culture that spawned Porgy and bess. This book is DuBose Heyward's original story that led to the plays and film. Based on the real life beggar Samuel Smalls (whose story is told in detail in Damon Fordham's "True Stories of Black South Carolina), Heyward was very good at observing the Black culture of Charleston for a white man of his time.
The Gullah speech is recorded phonetically and accurately, which is a difficult task since it is more tonal and does not usually translate well into print. he also adds lesser known aspects of Black Charleston such as the Mosquito Fleet fishermen and the Jenkins Orphanage Jazz band. The type of flamboyant parade he describes in one scene still occur in Charleston's Black neighborhoods on Martin Luther King day and New year's/Emanciation day.
The order of some of the more famous sequences differs, as does the ending. More time is spent on sctual conversation between Porgy and Bess, and Sportin' Life is a lesser character in the book. There is also more interaction with White characters in the book which makes the racial aspects of the era more clear. The book is more a series of anecdotes than a linear story as is the play and film versions.
If you've heard the score or seen the movie, you'll enjoy this book. Those unfamiliar with Gullah may find the dialect difficult, but accurate.
Overall, a good little piece of social history.
Given the popularity of this story, I'm not compelled to analyze any aspect of it. I will just suggest that you read it for yourself. The book is short, sweet, and full of life. By the time you get to the end, Porgy and Bess will have softened your heart and made you glad for investing the time. However, be mindful that the book only depicts one segment of the community...by no means does Porgy reflect the experiences and struggles of all, or even most, of Charlestown's early 20th century "Negro" society.
We had recently seen the Broadway "Version," and since it was so truncated, i had a burning desire to read the BOOK.
However, the prices were prohibative!!!! Fortunately, i was able to locate this Modern Library Hardback on Amazon for CHEAP, and EVERYONE was happy!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Characters are so deep and dear that I long for the book to continue. However the death of these characters will stay with me. A wonderful read that enriches my life.Published 23 months ago by Bambi Niles
Great look into what life was like from a different point of view.Published 23 months ago by Linda Beharry
Brilliantly written and a great record of the society of the time.Published 23 months ago by Alice Welsh
I read this after learning that it had been the original stimulus for George Gershwin's folk opera "Porgy & Bess. Read morePublished on January 9, 2014 by Amazon Customer
I especially enjoy books whose characters speak with a dialect(Gullah). At first, I had a hard time figuring some words out but once I caught on, the language just flowed and the... Read morePublished on September 21, 2011 by dcdiggs