“I’m grateful for your wherewithal,” the editor later told me.
in my first scholarly book during a strange Easter weekend I spent in Cambridge, England. Their explanation of what they wanted instead made me uncomfortable. Notwithstanding the voluminous train of profiles, reviews, and scholarly analysis that she drags behind her, she’s difficult to write about.
Because you could never ask a white author, ‘When are you going to write about black people? It’s inconceivable that where I already am is the mainstream.” , Morrison tilted her head and said: “If I wanted to write about a lesbian love affair, don’t you think I would have done that?
” Asked about the black woman who has done more to popularize her work than anybody else, she chuckled: “Oprah Winfrey made me a rich woman, and that’s all I have to say about that.” I watched with a kind of gleeful terror when Morrison appeared on , which was a selection for Winfrey’s book club.
The second piece I sent, a somewhat defensive paean to Morrison and her work, was rejected. There are many ways to be “difficult” in this world: stubborn, demanding, inconvenient, complex, troublesome, baffling, illegible. The funny thing is, I know this because of Toni Morrison. (Do you remember how the men get orally raped when Paul D. This is what I mean.) This shouldn’t be surprising; the same is true of our most prized canonical white writers.
Faulkner and Joyce don’t get dismissed for their difficulty; they’re praised for it. A water spirit from the stream behind 124 Bluestone Road?
“I’m already discredited, I’m already politicized, before I get out of the gate.” Morrison has spent her whole career negotiating the Scylla and Charybdis of writing what she calls “nonracist, yet race-specific literature.” She’s willing to accept “the labels” only because “being a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It’s richer than being a white male writer because I know more and I’ve experienced more.” On her birthday, I noticed that this quotation had been shared on Twitter by the magazine that published the 2003 profile in which it appeared—with the last sentence excised.
Morrison has always been uncompromising about the richness of black life.
I often think the writer she has the most in common with is Vladimir Nabokov, another notoriously difficult outsider who now sits at the center of the American canon.
They each evince a hauteur that isn’t defensive but inborn, and cut with a sense of humor.