The Ultimate Novelist: Toni Morrison (not who I’m trying to be).

The untouchable 81-year-old Toni Morrison will be signing copies of her new novel, “Home,” at Politics & Prose tomorrow, May 17, at 4pm.  I would go, except I can’t just leave in the middle of the day.  Well, I could–but not now that I’m blogging about it.

For the record, in my noveling pursuit I’m not trying to be like Toni Morrison.  In fact, she would probably not like whatever I end up producing.  While I appreciate intellectuals and academics, Morrison is so high brow, I’m get a headache just thinking about any attempt to try to emulate her.

What people need to understand about Toni Morrison (and I admit, I learned this from New York magazine), is that Toni Morrison is more like William Faulkner (a Great American Author) than, say Alice Walker (described as a Great African American Author or, alternatively, a Great Female Author, or worse, a Great African American Female Author).  I had heard somewhere that Morrison basically hated Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale author–can you find her books in my header photo??) but I didn’t realize until recently that she basically sees herself as above all black writers.  Maybe Morrison just wants to transcend the label—in other words, she just wants to be known as an accomplished writer, rather than an accomplished black writer.  To be honest, that’s my goal with my Lady Lit novel, and if Toni hasn’t been able to get past the label, I wonder if anyone ever will.  In college, I actually wrote my senior thesis about The Human Stain by Philip Roth.  It was about a brilliant, arrogant academic who was so light he could “pass” as a white, Jewish man in the 1940s.  I concluded that the reason he chose to be white and Jewish (during a time where I found evidence of lots of prejudice against Jews) was that it enabled to be viewed as a Brilliant Professor without being qualified by his ethnicity the way he most certainly would have been if people had known he was black.  I actually referred to Morrison’s book “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination,” in which she explains how all American fiction is influenced by African Americans.  I mean, all American life is influenced by African Americans because African Americans…are American (as Obama is constantly trying to convince everyone).

You see how I had to go all the way back to my senior thesis to even discuss Toni Morrison? High brow.  Anyway, I haven’t read “Home” but below is what I learned about Toni Morrison from New York Magazine:

  • She’s 81 years old
  • She won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for an entire body of work (first black woman Nobelist)
  • She was born Chloe Wofford, and hates that her legacy includes her ex-husband’s last name, Morrison
  • Her son, Slade, died 16 months ago (pancreatic cancer) at age 45
  • She was the one who called Bill Clinton the first black president in the New Yorker (well I didn’t learn that in the article, but it’s still interesting)
  • She has, like, a million homes
  • She’s trying to distance herself from Oprah (who made her novel Beloved into a movie)
  • Home  refers to the protagonist’s Georgia hometown, which lies at the end of a long, tortuous journey. Traumatized by atrocities in Korea and the Deep South of his childhood, Frank races back to save his sister from a sadistic white doctor.

What’s your favorite Toni Morrison novel?  Have you met her or taken a class with her?  Will her legacy be Great American Author or Great African American Author?

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