September 26, 2008

Marie's Favorite Writers: Toni Morrison

I have a lot of favorite writers. Toni Morrison is one of the first I selected as a favorite once I really started reading serious literature.

My first Toni Morrison book was Beloved. I read it when I was caretaker for B&B Stroma, which closed every summer. I always stayed in the room called The Library because it gave me views of both the front courtyard and of the pool area of the Moroccan Villa. The Library was a smallish room as hotel rooms go, but was beautiful, with a large antique four-poster bed, fireplace inlaid with antique tiles, vintage French doors opening to a shaded patio, a comfortable L- shaped banquette, and, of course, lots and lots of fully stocked bookshelves. It was also haunted, but the ghosts were used to me.

I discovered a lot of great writers in that room, and Toni Morrison was one of the first. I had a hard time with Beloved though, and I found later that most people do. It takes a long time to get going, and the story is almost too terrible to be compelling the way it's meant to be. I actually think the movie Oprah did was better than the book. But I was driven to read more by Morrison, and I'm glad I did. I guess I'll never understand why Beloved got the recognition it did and her other books, which are far superior, you just never hear about.

I won't go into them all, but here are my favorites.

The Bluest Eye. In this book Morrison uses a device that was probably considered pretty revolutionary at the time but now is just annoying. The beginning of each chapter has a sing-songy Dick and Jane style mantra, and the grammar gets worse and worse throughout, to demonstrate the destruction of the facade of perfection her characters are looking for. This is essentially a story about classism and racism, but not in the way you'd expect. It's about interracism among African Americans. There are a lot of components in the novel, but the prevailing story is about a very dark, ugly little girl who wishes for blue eyes believing that if only she had blue eyes she would be loved. This was something I could relate to, growing up with an "ethnic" appearance in a time when only blond hair and blue eyes were considered beautiful. It gave me quite a complex growing up, to the point that I have a hard time befriending blond people. I did marry one though. ;) My in-laws learned early on not to give my daughter any blond dolls, but they really don't understand.

Song of Solomon. This is an epic style story of a young man trying to figure out who he is. His name, Macon Dead, is an accident that happened when his emancipated grandfather registered with a drunk government worker who wrote the wrong things on the wrong lines. The accidental name was passed down and the original forgotten. That Macon was brutally murdered in front of his children and his property stripped. Macon Jr. dealt with it by forgetting and moving on, and his sister dealt with it by roaming, gaining a reputation as a sort of witch. Macon III is an irresponsible troublemaker and ladies' man, who gets himself into too many bad situations to remain in his hometown, so he goes on a trek to find his true name, following any and all clues he can find. It's a little too grand at times, but a beautiful story.


  1. I read a couple of things by Toni Morrison in high school and really enjoyed them. Beloved is the one I remember, probably because the story is so terrible, as you said.

  2. hey does everyone know about A MERCY coming out...

    november is looking like an exciting months for new releases

    we have posted toni's video about kindle on the blog if anyone wants to take a look


  3. (His ironwork aglitter like a gate)

    The blacksmith is an extraordinary character. Who is he?


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