Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

  • Cane
  • Customer reviews

Customer reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
9
4.9 out of 5 stars
5 star
8
4 star
1
3 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
Format: Paperback|Change

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 29 December 1997
This is perhaps one of my favorite works of literature I've ever read. This piece of literature uses poetry and short stories to portray the vast experiences of Afican-Americans in America. This novel (of sorts) opens your eyes and does so subtly and beautifully through various characters and the experiences they go through or fight against. Although written over fify years ago, Toomer's work relates well to the problems/concerns of race in America today. I feel this should be a required work in studying Modern American Literature and the African-American Experience. If there is a firm "canon" ever established, this should be included.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 May 1999
Alice Walker once said of Cane that she "could not possibly exist without it." I feel the same way. This is the most glorious, complex, heartwrenchingly beautiful collection of poems and prose that I have ever encountered. Toomer was a lyrical, insightful writer. He was someone who understood and could convey pain. Whatever racial classification people may settle upon, it is clear that Toomer was influenced by the black experience in the U.S. -- Cane reads like jazz sometimes, like blues at other times, and every once in awhile like gospel; in any case it is musical, rhythmic, and it gets to your soul.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 April 1999
Toomer considered race arbitrary. Above all, he considered himself an American. Read this book; or, if nothing else, at least read "Blood-Burning Moon" to experience some extremely intense prose.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Written in 1923, Jean Toomer's "Cane" is one of the lesser-known masterworks of American literature. An enigmatic figure, Toomer (1894 -- 1967) wrote "Cane" at the age of 27 and never published another novel, assuming that "Cane" itself can loosely be so described. The book frequently is described as initiating the Harlem Renaissance, even though Toomer did not live in Harlem when it was written and nothing in "Cane" is set there.

Although short, "Cane" is a difficult, modernistic book that resists easy summarization. It is a mixture of poetry, short stories and vignettes, and closet-drama. The book is in three sections, with the first in third set in a rural community in northeast Georgia while the middle section is set in African American neighborhoods of Washington D.C., and in Chicago. The writing is tight, imagistic, and suggestive. The book lacks plot and linear development. The unity the book has derives from allusiveness and from related themes.

Raised by an upper-middle class Washington, D.C. African American family, Toomer was something of a wanderer and a seeker. In 1922, he received an offer to teach at a rural school in Georgia for African Americans. This experience, his first exposure to rural African American life, resulted in "Cane". The book has a strong autobiographical flavor and an intensity which results from an overwhelming experience of discovering something for the first time.

Readers may differ about the main themes of "Cane". It discusses African American life, but in a form that was changing and passing away even as Toomer wrote about it. Toomer portrays rural southern African American life while contrasting it with developing In its portrayal of women and men and the different ways they understand sexuality, the book has a strong erotic component. The book also describes lonely, isolated people of both genders and different races who show an inability to make connections with others. While there are many realistic descriptive passages in "Cane", the predominant tone is one of mysticism. (In later life, Toomer became a student of Eastern religion, a follower of the Russian spiritual teacher Gurdjieff, and a Quaker.)

The first section of the book features six short stories set in Georgia interspersed with poems which illuminate them. Each of the stories focus on a different young woman and on the nature of her sexual experiences with men. Among other things, the stories show how men and women differ in their view of physical sexuality. The stories are raw, elliptical, and absorbing.

The second section of "Cane" opens with an impressionistic description of Georgia Avenue, a major African American thoroughfare in Washington, D.C. There is another combination of poetry and short stories, which tend to be slightly more elaborate than the stories in the first part. The stories suggest that African American migration to cities came at the cost of a loss of spontaneity and zest for life. Several of the stories have themes about sexual relationships between men and women that expand upon the earlier part.

The third and most difficult part of "Cane" is a short story in the form of a closet-drama, called "Kabinis". The primary character, Ralph Kabnis, shares traits with Toomer in that he is a northern African American who takes a job teaching in an African American rural Georgia school. Kabnis has difficulty understanding his new surroundings. As the story develops, he meets local African American men, an outsider who shares some of his own traits, and a series of young women, ranging from the innocent to prostitutes. There is also a mysterious, elderly, prophetic figure. The story is highly atmospheric and descriptive as Kabnis at the end comes to a degree of understanding of himself and of the southern African American experience.

In later autobiographical writings, Toomer offered the following observations about "Cane" and about why he never wrote a successor work that I find insightful. After describing the tension even in rural Georgia between traditional life and the pull towards urbanization, Toomer wrote:

"The folk spirit was walking in to die on the modern desert. That spirit was so beautiful. Its death was so tragic. Just this seemed to sum life for me. And this was the feeling I put into Cane. Cane was a swan-song. It was a song of an end. And why no one has seen that or felt that, why people have expected me to write a second and a third and a fourth book like Cane, is one of the queer misunderstandings of my life."

"Cane" brings an immediate emotional impact to the reader, while still demanding to be read slowly and carefully and pondered. I have used a Norton Critical Edition of "Cane" which includes valuable commentaries and critical articles, including Toomer's autobiographical writing quoted above. Cane (Norton Critical Editions) The book is also available in a Library of America volume devoted to African American novels of the Harlem Renaissance.) Lovers of American literature will want to get to know Toomer's seminal work.

Robin Friedman
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 24 February 2012
This is a sequence of short poems and short prose texts. The do not make for easy reading - the jacket of the Library of America edition that collects this along with other works of the Harlem Renaissance describes it as a strong example of modernism and it still makes the punch of the new and unexpected - but I found it generally rewarding.The one exception for me was the lengthier piece ends the book and is probably more directly autobiographical - which I found strangely less gripping.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 March 2013
Just masterpiece . On level of "Mullato" by Langston Hughes and other Harlem Renaissance writers. (Countee Cullen, McKay).
Very interesting form- short stories, poems, and sketches connected together in one sensitive stream.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 April 1999
It is irrelevant whether you choose to refer to Jean as black or as a MIXED CAUCASIAN. That is as riduculous and naive a moniker as you claim black to be. All caucasians are mixed, as all blacks are mixed. If the matter of his race was so simple, then he would not have fretted so much about it. He IS black in the sense that, by identifying him with black people, you get a more realistic sense of the context in which he lived his life. Labels such as "mixed caucasian" do nothing save give a mislesading starting point for evaluating his work. Oh, and by the way...His family WAS a member of the ealy African-American elite. He is from an old gaurd black family.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 July 1998
Readers who call Jean Toomer "black" or "African American" are totally in error. He rejected that racist "one drop" classification and deserves praise and admiration for doing so. Toomer's parents and grandparents were not "black middle class" but looked whiter than many Americans who call themselves "white."
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 July 1998
Readers who call Jean Toomer "black" or "African American" are totally in error. He rejected that racist "one drop" classification and deserves praise and admiration for doing so. Toomer's parents and grandparents were not "black middle class" but looked whiter than many Americans who call themselves "white."
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse



Need customer service? Click here