When Barack Obama mentioned 106-year-old Ann Nixon Cooper
in his inspiring victory speech, he utilized a device (if I can call it that) suggesting the immediacy of history through the narrative lens of a very old person/survivorwhich has been employed to excellent use in a number of outstanding fictions, Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man
(also an amusing film starring Dustin Hoffman), Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All
, Peter Schafer’s Amadeus
, and Stéphane Audeguy’s The Only Son
. Certainly one of the greatest examples of this approach to storytelling is The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
(The Dial Press), in which great American novelist Ernest J. Gaines lets centenarian (actually 110-year-old) Jane Pittman tell her storyfrom slavery on a Louisiana plantation to the so-called Civil Rights era of the mid-20th century. Perhaps Obama’s election valedictory was the reason but whatever: The Dial Press has chosen this time to reissue a softcover edition.