One night in the antebellum South, a slave owner and his African-American butler stay up to all hours until, too drunk to face their wives, they switch places in each other's beds. The result is a hilarious imbroglio and an offspring -- Andrew Hawkins, whose life becomes Oxherding Tale.
Through sexual escapades, picaresque adventures, and philosophical inquiry, Hawkins navigates white and black worlds and comments wryly on human nature along the way. Told with pure genius, Oxherding Tale is a deliciously funny, bitterly ironic account of slavery, racism, and the human spirit; and it reveals the author as a great talent with even greater humanity.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Simon & Schuster
March 13, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Oxherding Tale by Charles Johnson
PR ' CIS OF MY EDUCATION.
MY LIFE AT CRIPPLEGATE.
Long ago my father and I were servants at Cripplegate, a cotton plantation in South Carolina. That distant place, the world of my childhood, is ruin now, mere parable, but what history I have begins there in an unrecorded accident before the Civil War, late one evening when my father, George Hawkins, still worked in the Big House, watched over his owner's interests, and often drank with his Master ' this was Jonathan Polkinghorne ' on the front porch after a heavy meal. It was a warm night. An autumn night of fine-spun moonlight blurred first by Madeira, then home-brewed beer as they played Rummy, their feet propped on the knife-whittled porch rail, the dark two-story house behind them, creaking sometimes in the wind. My father had finished his chores early, for he was (he says) the best butler in the country, and took great pride in his position, but he wasn't eager to go home. He stayed clear of his cabin when my stepmother played host for the Ladies Prayer Circle. They were strange, George thought. Those women were harmless enough by themselves, when sewing or cleaning, but together their collective prayers had a mysterious power that filled his whitewashed cabin with presences ' Shades, he called them, because they moved furniture in the cabin, destroyed the laws of physics, which George swore by, and drove him outside to sleep in the shed. (Not that my father knew a whole lot about physics, being a slave, but George knew sorcery when he saw it, and kept his distance.) He was, as all Hodges knew, a practical, God-fearing man who liked to keep things simple so he could enjoy them. He was overly cautious and unnerved by little things. So he avoided his cabin and talked about commonsense things like politics and the price of potatoes on his Master's porch long after the last pine-knot candles winked out in the quarters. Whiskey burned, then exploded like gas in his belly. He felt his face expand. His eyes slid slowly out of focus. Hard old leaves on magnolias overhanging the porch clacked, like shells, in a September wind sprinkled with rain.
Twelve o'clock. A typical Saturday night.
"George," said Jonathan, his voice harsh after consuming forty-eight ounces of Madeira in what my father figured to be half an hour, "if I go up to bed at this advanced hour, smelling of spirits, my Anna will brain me with a milkstool." Low and deep, George laughed, then hiccoughed. He rubbed his legs to start blood circulating again. "And your wife, Mattie," Jonathan added, passing his bottle to my father, "she'll chew your fat good, won't she, George "