Toni Morrison’s Paradise

  Having read everything that I bought to read over the summer, I went back to my bookshelft to find something I haven’t read yet.  I grabbed Morrison’s 1999 Paradise.  The very first sentence, “They shoot the white girl first,” would grab the attention of any reader.  I’m only a few pages in right now and some have warned me that this isn’t their favorite Morrison, but we’ll see how it goes.  It’s so difficult to read during the semester, anyway, and Morrison is never an easy-read.  While I’ve read many of her novels, it is her Nobel lecture that I will always remember. She says, “Word-work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life. We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”  This shaped my view of the work that I do, which is teaching writing.  Words. Words. Words.  Some say things like “they’re just words” and there is that saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.  But really words hurt.  We see that all around us.  What we say to one another means something.  Words, as Morrison says, make meaning.  And Morrison’s words deliver poetic prose that forces the reader to make meaning – it’s never a straight-forward reading experience.  You have to meet her half way to make meaning with her words.

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One thought on “Toni Morrison’s Paradise

  1. I got derailed by Donoghue’s ROOM. Now I’m moving on to FREEDOM, so I’m not sure when I’ll get back to PARADISE…

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