Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Known World

I finished The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

I came by this book as I have many in the past months of my life, in an airport. I can't stay out of a bookstore, no matter where it is if I have even 5 minutes of extra time, I am pulled by an irresistable force by the allure of the treasures that await me inside.

That said, airports aren't known for their fantastic selection of books, though I'll grant that a few international ones have a sometimes interesting selection that you don't find usually elsewhere. (You can also tell a lot about the political leaning of the demographic in any given area by what's in the front of a bookstore....it's not just the latest books out, but the ones that the demographic will be most interested in....I used to do that for a living, but that's a story for another day.)

Anyway, I was on my way to LA when I picked up this book, had 7 hours in front of me, sounded promising, not because it's a pulitzer prize winner, but because it seemed to have an interesting storyline, and isn't that what we all pick our books for, either the storyline, or the information that they can provide?

Well, while this book had its moments, and it did, the overall writing style was distracting, the characters were underdeveloped, and it was....sadly, a disappointment to me. Here's a novel about black Americans owning other black Americans....some of the first prominent black slave owners in the country. A lot of fantastic possibilities for historical fiction, right? The worst thing for me was that as I read, (and I had to force myself to keep reading), I kept hoping for some tie up at the end that was going to make it all worthwhile. I was hoping for the characters to intersect to make me care more, to make the extremely important lessons of this book (and it had plenty of them) stick with me. And that never happened. The timeline jumped around enough, and the characters were just underdeveloped enough to make it too easy to put down. I was incensed when Augustus was sold, a free man for all those years, just taken and sold. When, however, he died not all that many pages later....I didn't feel much at all. That's an undeveloped character. And it's a shame, because some of the characters had great potential. In fact, the best developed characters in my opinion, Elias and Celeste, were developed much more highly at the end of the book and Jones did a great job developing them quickly. If only he had put that kind of feel into his other characters....and hadn't jumped back and forth in time constantly, he could have had a hell of a gripping book. Instead, it's one that's important cultural, historical, and economic lessons on slavery will...instead of lingering in the back of the mind...simply fade away.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a free internetvendor site called Holden Tees. We're a small company and we sell shirts and stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time

-Holden Tees

12:34 PM  
Blogger Bill Winschief said...

I've arleady sent an email comment to the specific blog related to Edward James, ZThe Known World".

10:53 PM  
Anonymous About Medicine Blog said...

And that never happened. The timeline jumped around enough, and the characters were just underdeveloped enough to make it too easy to put down. I was incensed when Augustus was sold, a free man for all those years, just taken and sold.

4:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home