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Reading “Love”, Morrison

Toni Morrison always intimidates me; but after Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury I feel invincible. Love is my fifth Morrison, and she gives her usual unrealistic element in telling a story.

Her prose has the quality of speech; Morrison deliberately strives for this effect, which she calls “aural literature.” She hears her prose as she writes, and during the revision process she cuts phrasing which sounds literary or written rather than spoken. She rejects critics’ assertions that her prose is rich; to those who say her prose is poetic, she responds that metaphors are natural in black speech.

Her writing often makes me let out “ah-huh…” or hum to it. Her prose is so viciously right-on and biting:

Do they still call it infatuation? That magic ax that chops away the world in one blow, leaving only the couple standing there trembling? Whatever they call it, it leaps over anything, takes the biggest chair, the largest slice, rules the ground wherever it walks, from a mansion to a swamp, and its selfishness is its beauty…. People with no imagination feed it with sex — the clown of love. They don’t know the real kinds, the better kinds, where losses are cut and everybody benefits. It takes a certain intelligence to love like that — softly, without props. (9)

Every page of this book evokes love and hate through intricate family history. It takes as much effort to hate as to love:

Heed’s look, cold and long, had been anything but inviting, so Christine just slammed past her through the door. With very few words they came to an agreement of sorts because May was hopeless, the place filthy, Heed’s arthritis was disabling her hands, and because nobody in town could stand them. So the one who had attended private school kept house while the one who could barely read ruled it. The one who had been sold by a man battled the one who had been bought by one. The level of desperation it took to force her way in was high, for she was returning to a house whose owner was willing to burn it down just to keep her out. Had once, in fact, set fire to Christine’s bed for precisely that purpose. So this time, for safety she settled in the little apartment next to the kitchen. Some relief surfaced when she sawed Heed’s useless hands, but knowing what the woman was capable of still caused her heart to beat raggedly in Heed’s presence. No one was slyer or more vindictive. So the door between the kitchen and Christine’s rooms had a hidden key and a very strong lock. (86)

So riveting is this novel, Morrison’s eighth, published in 2003. Literally I’m glued to it unless I have to attend to my obligations at work. On top of the family drama, it’s the personal histories that make these women so attractive to read. Never mess with women, let alone women who have been hurt.

One Response

  1. She is a master. I haven’t read this one…yet, but I will! I love how you feel invincible after Faulkner!!

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