‘Vacation’ by Langston Hughes

Hughes, Langston 1950e

Vacation by Langston Hughes, 1950

The magic trick:

Taking the reader to the world of Simple through slang and language

Every time you read a Simple story you’re entering a specific literary universe. It’s not really quite like any other that I know of in literature. For a lot of black people, it probably feels familiar. For a lot of white people, it probably feels like a window into a world often hidden. For all of us in 2018, it feels like a time forgotten – not necessarily more naïve but maybe more optimistic.

“Vacation” is a great example of one of the Simple stories that really transports the reader back in time. The way Simple describes his trip is wonderful. The language and slang can’t be beat. And that’s quite a trick on Hughes’s part.

The selection:

“… She started jitterbugging right on the stool, so I introduced myself. She said, ‘Baby, play that piece again,’ which I did. The she said, ‘Play “The Hucklebuck” about six times,’ which I also did.”

“So that’s where your money went,” I said, “right over the bar and down the juke box?”

“That’s where it went,” said Simple, “but it were worth it. This old gal looked like chocolate icing on a wagonwheel cake, partner. And I met another one looked like meringue on a Sunday pie. Between the two of them I had a ball!”

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