Cane: A New Critical Edition


A new critical edition for the 100th anniversary of Jean Toomer’s 1923 novel, forthcoming 2023


The sun is hammered to a band of gold. Pine-needles, like mazda, are brilliantly aglow. No rain has come to take the rustle from the falling sweet-gum leaves. Over in the forest, across the swamp, a sawmill blows its closing whistle. Smoke curls up. Marvelous web spun by the spider sawdust pile. Curls up and spreads itself pine-high above the branch, a single silver band along the eastern valley. A black boy … you are the most sleepiest man I ever seed, Sleeping Beauty … cradled on a gray mule, guided by the hollow sound of cow-bells, heads for them through a rusty cotton field. From down the railroad track, the chug-chug of a gas engine announces that the repair gang is coming home. A girl in the yard of a whitewashed shack not much larger than the stack of worn ties piled before it, sings. Her voice is loud. Echoes, like rain, sweep the valley. Dusk takes the polish from the rails. Lights twinkle in scattered houses. From far away, a sad strong song. Pungent and composite, the smell of farmyards is the fragrance of the woman. She does not sing; her body is a song. She is in the forest, dancing. Torches flare .. juju men, greegree, witch-doctors .. torches go out… The Dixie Pike has grown from a goat path in Africa. – from Cane by Jean Toomer, 1923/2023


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About the Book

Jean Toomer wrote Cane after a 3-month visit to the place his father’s people came from in Georgia. In 1923 it was unlike anything published before and in 2023 it remains a necessary alternative to the conventions of literature and publishing. Impossible to categorize, enigmatic, unhesitating, of its time and of our time, Cane could be called a collection of stories, a play waiting to be staged, a songbook, a novel, a catalogue of the Great Migration, the self-portrait of a Black man who refused to claim or be claimed by race. With this 100th anniversary edition, we reimagine the critical edition as a set of cards that do not encase the book in thought and theory but invite readers to move with its movements, to employ its imaginative technologies, to be with its phenomena outside of time, for, as Toomer writes, “Time and space have no meaning in a canefield.”

About the Author

Jean Toomer, 1894 – 1967, was the author of one book, Cane. Before that, he published a handful of essays in the socialist paper The New Call. After, he continued to write but never published again.

Additional information

Weight 12 oz
Dimensions 8 × 5.5 × .5 in