Two Evenings in Saramaka: Afro-American Tale-Telling in the Suriname Rain Forest / Edition 2

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Overview

"Whatever has gotten into the Prices?" asks the apocryphal Professor Goodfellow in the opening lines of Two Evenings in Saramaka. "After all those books on history and ethnography," he muses, "why are they now turning to children's stories and nonsense songs—mere folklore?"

In this innovative work, Richard and Sally Price explore the fully adult world of Saramaka "folktale-land," where animals speak, the social order is inverted, customs have been only partially worked out, and the weak and clever triumph over the strong and arrogant. Joining the Saramaka of the Suriname rain forest for two tale-telling wakes, we witness mischievous Anasi the spider matching wits with lecherous devils, the scrawny little kid rescuing his nubile sisters in distress, and the bitchy white princess being tamed by the one-sided boy. As seas dry up, books speak out loud, and elephants assume human form, we are present at a whole sequence of world-shaping happenings such as the invention of sex, the discovery of drums, and the arrival of death among humans.

Set in the more general context of tale telling by the descendants of Africans throughout the Americas and of recent scholarship in performance studies, these Saramaka tales are presented as a dramatic script. With the help of nearly forty photographs, readers become familiar not only with the characters in folktale-land, but also with the men and women who so imaginatively bring them to life. And because music complements narration in Saramaka just as it does elsewhere in Afro-America, more than fifty songs are presented here in musical notation.

Narrative, song, dance, and social interaction merge in these two evenings of multimedia entertainment, bearing witness to an Afro-American cultural tradition that remains alive and vibrant, constantly renewed but always reflecting its links with the past.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226680620
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1991
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Price

Richard Price is a senior lecturer in the history of Christianity at Heythrop College, University of London. His most recent book, with Michael Gaddis, is a translation of and commentary on The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon.

Biography

In a 1981 essay he wrote for The New York Times entitled "The Fonzie of Literature," Bronx-born Richard Price sums up the origin of his rep as a streetwise scribe:

"I doubt that if I had written about the suburbs I would have attracted nearly as much attention. I found most interviewers and reviewers more than willing to romanticize my background, to make it sound like I had come out of Hell's Kitchen or an Odyssey House. I spent three hours being interviewed by People magazine, insisting that I was not Piri Thomas or Claude Brown, I was a middle-class Jewish kid who went to three colleges. But when the issue hit the stands, the leadoff of the one-paragraph squib was, 'Richard Price comes from the slum-stricken streets and paved playgrounds of the Bronx.'"

So while he may not be the hardened thug that critics seem to want to believe he is, his string of bestselling novels and hit screenplays are filled with enough urban wit and grit to garner him commercial and critical—if not street—cred.

After graduating from Cornell in 1971, Price broke out of the Bronx with The Wanderers in 1974, when he was 24 and in the process of earning an M.F.A. from Columbia. A series of hard-boiled vignettes about a teenage gang coming up in the 1960s that Price scribbled in his spare time, the collection was whisked off to a literary agent by the head of Columbia's writing program, and Price's debut found a publisher. In 1979, Orion released a major motion picture based on the book. A sort of "anti-Grease," The Wanderers noticeably lacked the nostalgic bubblegum bounce of other coming-of-age novels and flicks of its day, and touched off Price's reputation for being unafraid to expose the dark side of Americana.

Two more acclaimed novels would follow—I>Bloodbrothers (1976) and Ladies' Man (1978)—but soon an out-of-control cocaine habit plunged Price into a creative and personal abyss. "I wasn't even that big of a doper," he recalled to Salon.com. "I was definitely bush league. But enough that it sort of preoccupied me for three years."

Hollywood proved to be the sunny savior Price needed to help him climb out of the funk. By the mid-'80s, he had become a top screenwriter with a roster of hits to his credit, including the The Color of Money (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award), Sea of Love, Ransom, and Mad Dog and Glory. "[Screenwriting] kept me in the writing game, and it also showed me I was able to write about things that were not connected to my autobiography," he told Salon.

In 1994, Price returned to fiction with the novel Clockers—a gritty depiction of crack trafficking in the fictional city of Dempsy, New Jersey, a Dantean hell of crime and urban blight. (Adapted into a film by Spike Lee, Clockers would earn Price another Academy Award nomination for screenwriting.) Since then, he has revisited Dempsy in blockbusters like Freedomland and Samaritan, garnering praise for his unblinkered view of inner-city life and his pitch-perfect ear for street talk. A writer's writer, Price counts among his many admirers such distinguished novelists as Russell Banks, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Elmore Leonard, and Stephen King. But in a 2003 interview, he confessed that the greatest validation he ever received came from his teenage daughter who read Samaritan and told him he was "really good!" Says Price, "Of course I want The New York Times to sing my praises, but she's my kid."

Good To Know

Price lives in New York City with his wife, downtown artist Judy Hudson, and their two daughters.

The inspiration for his novel Freedomland came from the infamous case of Susan Smith—a woman who admitted to murdering her own children after initially reporting a fictional carjacking.

A former cocaine addict, Price occasionally volunteers his time to speak about the dangers of drugs to high school students.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bronx, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1971; M.F.A., Columbia University

Table of Contents

Preface Introduction - Collective Fabulation First Evening - Sindóbóbi's Burial Wake Second Evening - In Memorium: Alébidóu and Bèkióo Appendix Notes References

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