[Blanche is going on a date with a new male friend]
She’d decided to wear her green dress that buttoned down the front, her brown-and-green sandals and straw bag. She liked the way the skirt of the dress swung when she walked. She had earrings almost the exact color of that dress too….
She went to the door when she saw Thelvin driving up.
‘I’m looking forward to this,’ she said. ‘Jimmy’s Place was still a farm when I lived here.’
Jimmy’s was 20 miles outside of Farleigh… The building was born a barn one of the farm building where Jimmy’s daddy and granddaddy had housed their mules, cows, pigs and chickens. The year Blanche left for Boston, Jimmy had come home from Chicago… he leased out the fields and opened the club. None of the customers knew if the place was legal, and no one cared. What mattered was that black folks had a place to go eat, drink, and, more important, to dance – not hip-hopping, house-music-loving youngsters, but people for whom the blues was the listening and dancing music of choice.
observations: It’s Labor Day in the US today, and the wonderful Blanche is the American working woman I most want to celebrate.
I’ve been very much enjoying the re-publication by Brash Books of the Blanche series – see earlier entries here and here, where I describe how they were ground-breaking and revolutionary when they first appeared. The books are still a great read, and I really enjoy the descriptions of Blanche’s life, family and friends, the frank comments on race relations in the USA, and the crime plot as well. I think Blanche is around 50, and – black or white – there aren’t that many protagonists who are women that age, and I like that too.
In this one Blanche has returned to her hometown of Farleigh in North Carolina, and is getting involved in a catering business run by her best friend – I found the details of that fascinating too. And, for Labor Day, boy does she work hard, always.
So it’s nice to see her enjoying the date above: this social event doesn’t really advance the plot much, but the scene draws a fantastic picture of a place and a time and a mode of entertainment. I liked it that Blanche hesitates before ordering fried chicken:
But what choice did she have? She didn’t want Thelvin to think she was too cute to eat with her fingers, and she was hungry.I also enjoyed a sudden jump into British politics when, a propos of very little, Blanche thinks that
looking like a sweet old granny hadn’t stopped Margaret Thatcher from being viciousThe crime plot was quite complex: it looked as though it was going to be fairly obvious, but Neely had some twists up her sleeve, and took me aback more than once.
The pictures (from the 1940s) are of a beer garden in Charlotte, North Carolina, and are from the NYPL. (Elsewhere they are described as being taken in Harlem, but I trust the NYPL…)
In a previous Labor Day entry I featured the enormous sculpture of a Hammering Man by Jonathan Borofsky, 48 feet tall, celebrating workers everywhere. He is outside the Seattle Art Museum, his arm "hammers" silently and smoothly four times per minute from 7 am to 8 pm every day, and it is a splendid sight. But he always has Labor Day off, so is immobile today.