Quicksand

Quicksand

by Nella Larsen

Paperback(New Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781684112951
Publisher: Beta Nu Publishing
Publication date: 02/23/2017
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 136
Sales rank: 852,373
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.32(d)

About the Author

One of the shining stars of the Harlem Renaissance, Nellallitea "Nella" Larsen (April 13, 1891–March 30, 1964) left behind only two novels and a handful of short stories — but Larsen's remarkable voice and vision has ensured her place in literary history.

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From the Publisher

"Fine, thoughtful and courageous. It is, on the whole, the best piece of fiction that Negro America has produced since the heyday of [Charles] Chesnutt." —W. E. B. Du Bois

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Quicksand 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic read. It addresses the issues of struggles of a mixed race woman in a society where she doesn't fit in with either black or white society, and is a novel that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a good book.
girlunderglass on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Sometime during the past week I happened to be sitting in a very stuffy classroom - first heatwave of the summer lurking outside the air-conditioned building - listening to a very boring lecture on Eugene O'Neil's "Mourning Becomes Electra". ("Yes, you seeee children, Orin feels verrry verrry geeltee beecoz hee thinks hee eez reesponseebell for...") Ten minutes into the class, I'm ready to die my hair black, cut my veins and re-read Bell Jar. Fortunately I notice that the girl sitting next to me has a copy of of one of those huge Norton Anthologies - possibly to use in another class. So I think "surely, there must be something better than this to read in there!" and beg her to lent me that book in the same tone I would beg an axe-carrying mass-murderer to spare my life.The first think that caught my attention - I was looking for full-length texts, not those useless chopped up texts the Nortons are full of - was Nella Larsen's "Quicksand". So I read the biography of the author first, to prolong the time I didn't have to hear all about Orin and Lavinia, and then proceeded to read the text. I had read about half of it before the teacher dismissed us and the girl asked me for her book back, and then I went home and read the rest of it. The novella, at only 80 (small-print) pages offers much more food for thought than its size would suggest. Larsen touches upon questions of racial and sexual identity, and discusses sensuality, love, religious belief, discrimination, the desirability of uniformity or diversity, belonging, motherhood, marriage, happiness, womanhood, money - discusses them in earnest, using her own experiences to make the novel and its protagonist as real as possible. Our heroine Helga Crane shares a lot with her creator, Larsen. They both had a white mother and a coloured father, they both lived in Denmark for some years, they both worked at rich black schools and ended up very disappointed in the education provided for coloured people, they both had to deal with marital and economical issues. They both struggled to find a place in the American society of the 1920s and 1930s. And neither of them, it seems, ever found it. After her divorce was completed, Nella Larsen stopped writing completely, turned her back on the critics who acclaimed her work and the literary circles where she was admired, and was reported as being depressed and possibly on drugs. She never wrote another word again and spent the rest of her life avoiding contact with friends and acquaintances. As for Helga Crane... her "ending" is not quite as conclusive - it is perhaps more subtle. But it is no less heartbreaking.My favourite parts of the book were not, in the end, the ones that dealt with racial identity - although one could argue that the issue of racial identity is such an intrinsic part of the novel that you cannot separate it from the text. What I loved most was, on the one hand, the descriptions of the stages of Helga's relationship with religion; and on the other hand her attempts, through whatever means she had at hand, to capture that elusive thing called "happiness", attempts that never quite succeeded.So: short novella, and definitely worth a read.
Banoo on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The 2 page introduction written by T.N.R. Rogers nearly drove me to tears with the description of the life of Nella Larsen. And then I moved on to the book and got a little pissed-off with Helga Crane, the main protagonist and the alter-ego of Nella Larsen.Helga was born to a Danish mother and West Indies father. The father split when Helga was just a young girl and the mother remarried to a white man. They had another daughter and the dark little Helga was basically abandoned. Now you have to admit that is a pretty sad affair.Helga is educated. She teaches at a southern African-American school. She's got job security and people who love her. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs of the school. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a couple of men first.Chicago. Woe is her. No money, no job. But she networks, gets a job and moves to New York's Harlem district where she lives with the high society in a Harlem Mansion. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a few people first.Denmark. Her Aunty and Uncle welcome her with open arms. She lives in luxury. Dresses to the nines. Goes to concerts and high society artsy parties. She's proposed to by a prominent artist. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a few people first.New York City. Rich. Mingling with the best of Harlem. Lovers past and present. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a few people first.Alabama. A preacher's wife. Poor. Birthing like a rabbit. Playing Martha Stewart to the local ladies. But she's restless...Now I understand that not being fully African-American and not being fully Anglo Saxon at the turn of the century was a precarious position to be in. But it seems she was generally accepted into each place she ran off to. She was just never satisfied. Aside from being materialistic she was also an egoist. She scorned her African-American culture and disdained the Anglo Saxons. Her problem didn't seem to be a racial problem. It appeared to be a personal issue of not 'counting your blessings'.In my life I've run away from places I didn't like and like Helga was happy for the first couple of years then grew dissatisfied with each locale. But I learned to appreciate the good things about each place I lived. Made new friends. Looked at the world in wide-eyed wonder. But damn Helga, you had friends, wealth, acceptance and still groaned about how hard your life was. You were blind to your blessings. Belittled the friends you had and ruined your life in the process. You have no one to blame but yourself...Helga reminded me of Anna Karenina. I didn't like Ms Anna but in the end felt pity for her. In Quicksand, I didn't like Ms Helga and in the end still didn't like her. But I enjoyed the book.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I just finished Quicksand, and it's a great read. All Helga Crane's choices are impetuous, and I think Nella Larsen sacrifices the character for the opportunity to describe the many ways a mixed race woman could live in 1920's United States. There's the "squeeze all the native out of them" school where all attempts as self expression are squashed. After reading a little about the Indians under British rule, I think this is the sort of school she was after where the Indians end up more British than the British. She takes just a little time to explore the lack of opportunities for a black woman in a northern city where the only jobs open to her are menial. Helga Crane, well educated and proper, loves to read and thinks she can therefore get a job as a librarian without further education. In fact, Larsen was a librarian, but she must have found a way to get the proper credentials.Then there's the wonderful stay in Harlem. I love this description:For the hundredth time she marveled at the gradations within this oppressed race of hers. A dozen shades slid by. There was sooty black, shiny black, taupe, mahogany, bronze, copper, gold orange, yellow, peach, ivory, pinky white, pastry white. There was yellow hair, brown hair, black hair, straight hair, straightened hair, curly hair, crinkly hair, woolly hair. She saw black eyes in white faces, brown eyes in yellow faces, gray eyes in brown faces, blue eyes in tan faces. Africa, Europe, perhaps with a pinch of Asia, in a fantastic motley of ugliness and beauty, semibarbaric, sophisticated, exotic, were here. This would seem to be the exact right place for Helga Crane, but she never seemed to be able to comfortably intermingle the Helga and the Crane parts of herself. Unlike the ideal Audrey Denney who fit with both races, Helga Crane never felt she fit with either. In Harlem she was "passing" as black. In Denmark she was surrounded by whites but valued only for her exotic otherness. Her job was to tantalize with her sensuality. She longed to have "that blessed sense of belonging to herself alone and not to a race."Then Larsen adds the religious sharecropper to the mix, lest we forget what the African Americans were migrating away from. This is such a wonderful work. What a loss that for whatever reason Larsen was not able to continue with her art.
autumnesf on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Written in the 20's by one of the Black Renaissance writers. Story is about a woman with a white mother and a black father and her search for belonging in America and overseas with white relatives. Well written and an easy and entertaining read. I think many of the characters issues are still relevant today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BerylSBissell More than 1 year ago
Helga Crane is a young woman of mixed race tormented by her desire for a better, more fulfilling life. She is intelligent, beautiful, rebellious and has little use for what she sees in others as pretense and affectation. In a desperate search for happiness, she plunges into experiences that appear to fulfill her dreams but inevitably let her down. She discovers that does not like where she is, is as lonely as ever, and is as far from happiness as she’s ever been.  Impulsive, superior, judgmental, and perpetually dissatisfied, she avoids looking too deeply into her yearning and misses the insight that would have enlightened her – that happiness comes from within, not from without.  The story reaches its climax when Nella, having been unwittingly seduced during  a wild and passionate prayer meeting into which she’s stumbled during a terrific storm, follows that passion into a decision that condemns her to a life of dirt, misery, poverty, religion, and ignorance – everything she sought to avoid and now lacks the power to resist.
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