B.O.S.S. Authentically Artful Annal #0000000019
- Toni Morrison (The Bluest Eye, 1970)
For is life not difficult to separate? To determine extents, limits, boundaries? Is it not impossible to understand memory’s benevolent self-censorship? Its convenient mechanism for self-preservation? Its ability to bear unfathomable weight? Is it possible to truly capture what makes one one? If only, perhaps it could be found in:
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
And reading it is going to be cool for the following reasons:
- Morrison has some serious chops of the modern literary persuasion. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, is simultaneously a youthful study in a number of narrative techniques and a psychological exploration into the fascination with whiteness and its subsequent relationship to perceived beauty that is sown so early in children. 1987’s Beloved reinvented fiction’s discussion of slavery, melding themes of memory, the supernatural, and the impossibility of defining the true extent of pain with a swirling structure echoing Faulkner and potentially only matched in modern times by Edward P. Jones’ The Known World. 1992’s Jazz crackles with the energy of 1920’s Harlem that serves as its setting and shows yet more creativity in fiction techniques via an unnamed first person narrator, thus providing the impression of Morrison watching—instead of writing—the entire novel unfolding from a window high above the steaming streets.
- Despite a bibliography chocked full of heavy hitters, many often cite 1977’s Song of Solomon as Morrison’s best. With her career so focused on inventive techniques, it is perhaps this work’s focus—the life of Milkman Dead, unfolding chronologically—and its application of the classic coming-of-age theme to a richly detailed African American world that continues to resonate. Morrison’s goal of giving direct focus to a fully developed male character is an excellent topic to explore 40 years later. Word on the street is that it is one of the best existing examples of writing across gender out there.
- She took me to her parents for a Sunday meal / Her father took one look at me and he began to squeal / It makes no sense, punk rock girl / Your dad is the vice president / Rich as the Duke of Earl / Yeah, you’re for me, punk rock girl. (It probably doesn’t hurt to note that The Dead Milkmen got their name from Song of Solomon, right?)
Let’s do a half-way point in late May and a finale in late June.
It sure is risky trying to figure out anybody’s state of mind,
Nick - B.O.S.S. Department of Getting By
Post-script: We will be doing an extra podcast on Morrison’s Playing in The Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.
Post-post-script: Artwork for this round was graciously designed by B.O.S.S. mainstay Eric Heiman.