Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brer Rabbit and Barnes & Noble

I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and said to the woman behind the desk, "I want to know if you have any modern retellings of the Uncle Remus stories."

She looked blank. "Is that a title?"

"You might try Joel Chandler Harris or Brer Rabbit," I said.
She still looked blank. I spelled Brer Rabbit for her. "B-R-E-R and then it's Rabbit."

She did some typing. "All I'm finding is children's stories."

"That sounds right to me."

She did some more typing. "They're all out of print."

Then she told me how to find out of print books at the Barnes & Noble website. I thanked her and left.

So I encountered someone in a bookstore who did not recognize Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit or Joel Chandler Harris.

Patrick's comment was, "Times are hard. People take the jobs they can get."

I don't know if this is ordinary, everyday ignorance; or if the Uncle Remus stories have simply been eliminated from American culture.

I began writing a story yesterday, after my visit to Barnes & Noble. It's about how Brer Rabbit goes north from the pine woods of Georgia to Detroit to work for Mr. Ford, along with lots of other black folks, and what happens to him.

I don't know if I will finish it. The beginning is pretty good. It's Brer Rabbit and one of my Big Mamas -- Big Brown Mama, in this case -- in the Dakota Bar on Nicollet Mall, talking about how Brer Rabbit became a tired black working man in Minneapolis.

This morning Patrick said, "The more I think about it, the more I think this will be a good story. But I don't think you'll be able to sell it."


Blogger tate hallaway said...

I always love your Big Mama stories sellable or not.

As for Brer Rabbit, I'm not sure I quite understand how an American doesn't know the story. Disney appropriated Brer Rabbit, after all. I remember seeing it in the theatre as a kid.

12:38 PM  
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