Goodbye, Toni Morrison

In celebration of Toni Morrison’s life and legacy, at the New York TimesDwight Garner writes: “Over the course of her long and exceptional literary career, which included the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, Morrison, who died on Monday at 88, brought a freight of news about black life in America (and about life, period) to millions of readers across the globe.” Yes! More from there:

Much of this news was of the sort that, in terms of its stark and sensitive awareness of the consequences of racism, opened an abyss at one’s feet and changed the taste of the saliva in one’s mouth.

Morrison had a superfluity of gifts and, like few other writers of her era, bent language to her will. Her prose could be lush, or raw and demotic, or carefree and eccentric, often on a single page. She filtered folklore, biblical rhythms, dreams, choral voices and a steep awareness of history into her work. In the best of her 11 novels — these include “The Bluest Eye” (1970), “Sula” (1973) and “Song of Solomon” (1977) — she transmuted the basic matter of existence into profound works of art.

Her spiritual forebears were many, and they were elite. You sensed in Morrison’s fiction the sweep and brooding power of Ralph Ellison, the complicated warmth and riddling wit of Zora Neale Hurston, the explosive intellect of James Baldwin and the bent-shovel cadences of William Faulkner. Yet Morrison’s idiosyncratic music was her own. She was a colossus of 20th-century fiction.

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, where her father was a welder, Morrison wrote her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” while raising two children alone. She woke every morning at 4 a.m. to write.

She composed “The Bluest Eye,” she once said, because it was a book she wanted to read. Set in 1941, the novel concerns the life of a young African-American girl named Pecola who has internalized racism, who considers herself unattractive and unlovable because of her dark skin. The novel probes, as Morrison wrote in the foreword to a later edition, “what it is like to be actually hated — hated for things we have no control over and cannot change.”

Like many of Morrison’s later novels, “The Bluest Eye” is told from a variety of perspectives, including an omniscient third-person narrator. In a 1993 Paris Review interview, conducted by the novelist Elissa Schappell, Morrison spoke to the importance of including more than one voice in her fiction.

Continue reading at the New York Times.

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