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Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Gathering of Old Men

After Mozart and Leadbelly A Gathering of Old Men is the second book by Earnest J Gaines and in a way I was surprised not to be enthralled. Maybe my expectations were too high, but something just wasn't right about this book. Gaines talks about the South, he talks about race, he mocks religion (or the priest in any case), on the face of it I would have to love the book. Yet, nothing ever remains as simple as it seems.

Gathering of Old Men tells the story of a group of old, black men who have suffered indignation and abuse by white people all their lives and finally decide to make a stand and defend one of theirs suspected of the murder of a white man. Gaines tells the story by switching from one character to another, providing varied view points while not becoming incomprehensible or impossible to follow. The problem of the book lies simply in the fact that it is too simple. It's message is too straight forward, the characters develop no depth (with the possible exception of one important non-main one) and the reader always feels longing for some more food for thought. The cover of the book is adorned with a very nice folk art picture of three old black men with guns. I liked that picture. I like folk art, but I guess as far as literature is concerned I like things a bit less obvious and straight forward.

3 comments:

tagaholic said...

Looking for intellectualism in the deep south? That's a new one ;p

Kathy said...

Too obvious? I think there is a lot of hidden symbolism here. For instance, how about the psychological and sociological relationship between Candy and the old men?

Benjamin Preisler said...

The old men aren't there because of Candy though. They came because she called them yes, but they do it since they want to make a stand, not even to help one of their own, but to act against the oppression that they have endured all their lives. Candy is just the facilitator that prompts all this. If I remember correctly she is ignored by the men interacting with the initial suspect, even by the Sheriff when she comes.

I don't think her relation to these old men is truly relevant then, nor am I so sure you could draw much out of it. But, please surprise me and do. I'm curious.