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This comprehensive biography of writer Jean Toomer, known as the Herald of the Harlem Renaissance, uses previously untapped sources, including lengthy meetings with Toomer’s widow and associates. It examines his ancestors and early life, the publication of Cane in 1923, and then the strange events of his later life, including his association with Waldo Frank and his wife Margery Naumberg, through whom he would come to be involved with Georges Gurdjieff, an Armenian mystic. It examines his marriages, his involvement with Quakerism, his declining health (and subsequent involvement with psychic healers such as Edgar Cayce and Ron Hubbard). The volume includes an interview with Marjorie Content Toomer, his widow, and a Jean Toomer bibliography.


“Rich in detail and anecdotes, Griffin’s study concludes with his 1972 interview with Marjorie Content Toomer. A Scholarly apparatus including primary sources and a number of photographs – some previously unpublished – add another dimension to Griffin’s study. Recommended.” - CHOICE

“. . . . the elements that make this work unique are Griffin’s personal familiarity with so many of the people treated in this book, plus the tremendous amount of time he devoted to his research over the years, research that goes far beyond what most scholars would consider reasonable or necessary. . . to gain a better understanding of the true personality of this very enigmatic author. . . . Essential to Griffin’s work are his early associations with Toomer’s widow, Marjorie Content Toomer, and such old Toomer allies as Gorham and Delza Munson. These individuals associated with Toomer on an almost daily basis and knew him intimately. The anecdotes they imparted to Griffin prove priceless and reveal details of Toomer’s character that can be found nowhere else. . . . As for the sticky racial questions that bedeviled Toomer throughout his life, Griffin dives in there with great determination. . . in an attempt to track down Toomer’s elusive ancestors. . . . Griffin, who apparently never met a mystery he didn’t like, delves into these matters (along with a great many others) with the passion of a detective hot on the trail of a suspect, and that’s what makes this book such fascinating reading.” – W. B. Martin

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. The Racial Enigma of Jean Toomer
2. A Search for Identity
3. A Literary Breakthrough
4. Waldo Frank and the Publication of Cane
5. Toomer Meets Margaret Naumberg and Georges Gurdjieff
6. Toomer Becomes a Gurdjieffian
7. From Rags to Riches
8. A Life in Decline
An Interview with Margery Content Toomer
A Jean Toomer Bibliography

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