Once long ago and far away…
I went to City Arts and Lectures In Conversation featuring Toni Morrison interviewed by Michael Krasny last night. It took place in San Francisco at Masonic Auditorium, a vast, cold place. I had a first row balcony seat. Far below, two big orange chairs were separated by a table with a vase of orange tulips. Toni Morrison is a grand presence, a woman who seems to shine with mental incandescence. She is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. This woman is funny, and deadly serious in almost the same moment. Toni Morrison is a diva. Her mind has the speed and ferocity of a whip, but she is gracious and listens carefully to all questioners with the patience of a real teacher (She teaches at Princeton University).
I’m not a big fan of her books (although I did read Beloved); I was there to listen to and experience her, and to admire her beautiful dreadlocks: silver-white and twisted in an elegant pattern falling far down her back.
But then I found myself scribbling her words on the first thing I could grab from my purse – $5 off coupons from Elephant Pharmacy called, “peanuts”. I wrote to catch the hefty statement When my father died the girl he thought I was died too. I love that. It’s so true and I’ve never heard anyone say it like that.
She talked about inhabiting her characters fully.” I can taste everything she tastes, know what she would wear, but I would never cut off the reader’s imagination by describing it all in detail.” Michael brought up an extremely sexy scene in one of her books. How did she do that? She mentioned that the secret of writing like that is to just lay the groundwork – to write (I can’t remember exactly) a part of the scene and let the reader fills in the rest with his or her imagination. Something about “corn-silk” and the touch of it. Uh-Huh!
She mentioned how slavery was diverse, not unique to (black) identity, how the part of history about “white” slavery in America and other places in the world has not been part of what Americans learn.
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The LA Times Book Review On Line, November 16, 2008 talks about A Mercy, her new book:
What is the true nature of enslavement? The smithy provides part of the answer when he tells Florens that he’s seen slaves freer than free men. “One is a lion in the skin of an ass,” he says. “The other an ass in the skin of a lion.” It’s the withering inside that truly enslaves.
When asked about the BLOG format last night, Toni Morrison commented, “Dante changed English, why not the BLOG (this time)?”