Toni Morrison: Poets & Writers

The latest issue of Poets & Writers features Toni Morrison on the cover. The rightful owner of my borrowed magazine copy noted the style in which Toni Morrison sits. However, I noticed that either Toni Morrison has a limited wardrobe and loves posing the same way for each photo shoot, or P&W has recycled old photos of the author. Whatever. Do you Toni.

But you know why I’m posting, right? I searched for an excerpt of Morrison’s November 11th release, A Mercy. If this is your first time hearing about it, see one of my previous posts for a summary.

Question: Are Morrison and Sister Souljah going head to head like Kanye and 50?! Who will sell the most copies? The Nobel Prize winner or urban fiction’s sweetheart? (wink)

Read the excerpt from Toni Morrison’s A Mercy:

Don’t be afraid. My telling can’t hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark–weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more–but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth. I explain. You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like, but one full of curiosities familiar only in dreams and during those moments when a dog’s profile plays in the steam of a kettle. Or when a corn-husk doll sitting on a shelf is soon splaying in the corner of a room and the wicked of how it got there is plain. Stranger things happen all the time everywhere. You know. I know you know. One question is who is responsible? Another is can you read? If a pea hen refuses to brood I read it quickly and, sure enough, that night I see a minha mãe standing hand in hand with her little boy, my shoes jamming the pocket of her apron. Other signs need more time to understand. Often there are too many signs, or a bright omen clouds up too fast. I sort them and try to recall, yet I know I am missing much, like not reading the garden snake crawling up to the door saddle to die. Let me start with what I know for certain.

The beginning begins with the shoes. When a child I am never able to abide being barefoot and always beg for shoes, anybody’s shoes, even on the hottest days. My mother, a minha mãe, is frowning, is angry at what she says are my prettify ways. Only bad women wear high heels. I am dangerous, she says, and wild but she relents and lets me wear the throwaway shoes from Senhora’s house, pointy-toe, one raised heel broke, the other worn and a buckle on top. As a result, Lina says, my feet are useless, will always be too tender for life and never have the strong soles, tougher than leather, that life requires. Lina is correct. Florens, she says, it’s 1690. Who else these days has the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady? So when I set out to find you, she and Mistress give me Sir’s boots that fit a man not a girl. They stuff them with hay and oily corn husks and tell me to hide the letter inside my stocking–no matter the itch of the sealing wax. I am lettered but I do not read what Mistress writes and Lina and Sorrow cannot. But I know what it means to say to any who stop me. (Read more or view Oprah’s interview)

Happy reading, ya’ll


6 thoughts on “Toni Morrison: Poets & Writers

  1. I look forward to picking up a copy. I’ll be on a long wait at the library. Hey – did you see Oprah’s interview years ago with Morrison after the Bluest Eye – no, that wasn’t it- I can’t remember – the film Oprah did. I read the book. Anyway, I’m getting old. I can’t remember. Anyway, I got the impression Morrison didn’t really like Oprah’s version of BELOVED! That’s it. I just went and googled it. Anyway, I’ve been a Morrison fan for about 15 years or so now. What about Terry McMillan. Has she done anything lately? And what ever happened to California??? Jefferson. Was that her name? I read a book she wrote many years ago. She was good! NPR did a big spiel on her. I thought she was destined for stardom – but now, I hear nothing of her.


  2. Her sitting pose, by the way, is ultra-orthodox conservative: she is composing herself in the manner of our honorable ancestors rendered in stone. Remember those “statues” from the Nile Valley?

    Toni Morrison is the kind of Black woman who may actually know that “statues” are words and, by the way she is sitting, Toni is speaking to us in multiple dimensions.


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