A JEAN TOOMER READER by Frederik L. Rusch


Selected Unpublished Writings
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 When in 1923 the American writer Jean Toomer (1894-1967) published Cane, his famous lyric and experimental novel of black southern life, he received immediate recognition and acknowledgment for having produced an American literary masterpiece. In the more than 40 years of his life following Cane, however, Toomer was neither to publish voluminously nor to recapture the breadth of recognition that had come to him after his first book. His life and thought, nevertheless, continued to possess passion, relevance, and consistency during the subsequent decades, and black and American literature scholar Rusch (English/John Jay College/CUNY) has compiled this welcome selection of unpublished Toomer writings in order to provide a full overview both of the author's life and of his thought. Fragments, letters (to Waldo Frank, Sherwood Anderson, Horace Liveright, and Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe, among others), essays, fiction, poetry, even a children's story are included. ``The attainment of self-realization and psychic wholeness leading to a new personal and social harmony was Toomer's aim throughout his life,'' writes Rusch, speaking in his introduction of Toomer's indefatigable idealism: ``Toomer believed that human beings could change, transcend their ordinary lives and selves, and find true being and unity with others.'' Toomer himself, in a Whitmanesque fragment dated 1931 and included in the volume, writes that ``There is a new race in America. I am a member of this new race. It is neither white nor black nor in-between. It is the American race, differing as much from white and black as white and black differ from each other.'' And in a letter to Stieglitz of October 21, 1939, he writes: ``If I have not yet reached Heaven at least my feet are more firmly planted on the Earth. As every jumper knows, one must have good purchase on the ground in order really to spring up.''

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-507733-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993