The Known World (NPR)

There is a great deal of pressure when one has a degree in English. People have high expectations for your vocabulary knowledge and your application of grammar rules. Unfortunately, my mother moved around a great deal when I was younger. Sometimes I was placed in decent schools, other times my mother had to supplement my education with library books. Not that any of this should be considered a good excuse, but damn. Even when I edit, there are some errors that I may not be aware of. Does that mean that I’m any less intelligent or worthy of my degree? I believe that sometimes, other English majors–or folks who received a quality education where/whenever–assume, oh she doesn’t know what a blah, blah, blah phrase is or she doesn’t even know how to use a blah, blah, blah correctly, so she must not no much. Well, the fact of the matter is…I’m still learning. We all are. And that’s okay, right? All that to say…pardon my typos English authorities. I’m just on here talking about books and having fun. And no, nobody sent me an email commenting on my errors. I’m just talking.

Now, on to the real reason why I came here today. I’m on page 4 of The Known World and will probably remain there for quite a few days. Well, you know I have to keep my little site updated–for my 3 biggest fans! Oh yeah, and you too…whoever you are. If you’re interested in learning a little more about what I’m reading, check out the preceding post. Also, be sure to stay tuned for the next post, which should be an interview with the author (not a personal interview–I’m not that large).

 Being a writer is sort of way out there. It’s over there someplace. So I came to it late and even now, I mean, you write one day—you take a week and you write a good story perhaps. And then you get up the next Monday, and all the effort and knowledge that went into writing that first story—you can’t transfer it over to the second story. You are always starting at the bottom again. So it’s—a nasty job. It’s a nasty job. – Edward P. Jones

‘The Known World’
Novel Offers a New Look at the Nature of Slavery

October 28, 2003

 Prior to the Civil War, some free black people owned slaves. Author Edward P. Jones picked up on that little-known fact and has written a vivid first novel that looks at slavery through a different lens. On Morning Edition, hear an interview with Jones and a review of The Known World.

“A sprawling story built around a morally bankrupt social institution,” The Known Worldis “a meditation on entrenched evil,” reports Martha Woodroof, of member station WMRA.

Jones collected two shelves of books about slavery, but never got around to reading them. Still, the author was able to use his imagination, and stories he had heard growing up, to make his characters come alive. “I decided the people I’d created were real enough and I had just accumulated enough information about what the world was like in the South before 1865 to allow me to lie and get away with it,” he says.

Jones’ novel has won critical acclaim for its unique and imaginative nature and is a finalist for this year’s National Book Awards. In a review for Morning Edition, Price Cobbs says The Known World “plausibly evokes how slavery made victims of both blacks and whites and still haunts the historical memory of America.”

Read an excerpt from the book.

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5 thoughts on “The Known World (NPR)

  1. I have yet to tackle “The Known World.” But I just started Edward J’s short story collection, “All Aunt Hagar’s Children.” I’ve only read a couple of pages of the first story, but already I’m loving it. His use of language is so FIERCE, I’m in awe. Also, I’ve never lived in Washington or Virginia, but I truly feel as if I know the characters in this first story. I’ve met them somewhere . . . if not in this world or this lifetime, then, perhaps another (smile).

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  2. Jones’ story was eye-opening, thought provoking and created in me an even creater desire to write historical literature.

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  3. Naysue, I came across your site through a post you left on Mat Johnson’s blog last month. This is my first post on your blog and I really like your site.

    How do you maintain discipline as a reader? I like to challenge myself by reading different works including fiction and nonfiction but I struggle to resist going off into other books that ignite my interest.

    Recently I picked up Man Gone Down by a young brother, Michael Thomas. What I was struck by was a suggested reading list at the back of the novel. It included some works I’ve never read. Now I’m fighting urge to run out and purchase Kierkegaard. I’ve already got a full plate with simultaneously reading two 500 plus page books.

    What is your reading habit? Do you plough through one book at a time or do you read several at once? If so, do you you set limits and schedules? And what do you do when you hit a stumbling block like boredom or opaque prose (like some of Toni Morrison’s stuff; that is the dense stuff I’m not calling her dull)?

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  4. Lori, I’m glad to know that Jones’ short story collection is good so far. Now that I’m finished unpacking, I’m ready to get back to reading. If you’ve connected to the characters like you described…I can’t wait.

    Persistence, there’s just a certain level of respect that I offer to those who write historical fiction. I feel as though you can’t just sit down and say, ‘hey, i’m going to write a novel that takes place in the 1920s today.’ Research is a must. I would love to get to that level, except I have no idea what decade I’d explore.

    Submariner, thanks for the love. I was actually writing all these entries in a real journal, but typing on this blog is MUCH easier. To be honest, my first two years of teaching SpEd, I read aloud so much and fought with my teenage students to read so often that when I arrived home I would avoid books in general. This year, my boyfriend inspired me to return to literature. It’s like, once you read one good book it sparks something in you and you’re ready to see what else you’re missing inside the pages of other books. I will admit that I’m not too into non-fiction. Usually if I do read non-fiction it’s a biography or self-help book. Fiction is really my thing. I’ve never heard of Man Gone Down, but you know Amazon is only a click away. I also try to avoid 500 page books. I’ll reserve my jokes about that since my reply is getting a little long. My reading habit is to plow through one book at a time. I would even go as far as saying that once I finish a book that I usually need a day or two before I start another one, unless I really hated the finished book. Most times, characters in a story stay on my mind long after I finish a novel and if I read something else too soon, the stories will fuse together in my mind. Also, when I get to a book that’s dull–-like The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (booooo), college experience has taught me to push through, but it normally takes me a great deal longer than a good read. I don’t set any limits or schedules, I just grab a book and read. I will say that I don’t really like for people to give me books. Most of the books I’ve been given will sit on my shelf for 1+ year before I read them (if then). Submariner, if you left your email address I wouldn’t have to leave this crazy long reply under my comments section. I hope you return to read it!
    Thanks for the comments ya’ll!

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