Toni Morrison

  • Nov. 5th, 2016 at 8:22 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: open book rose)
I just think goodness is more interesting. Evil is constant. You can think of different ways to murder people, but you can do that at age five. But you have to be an adult to consciously, deliberately be good – and that’s complicated.

Toni Morrison

  • Oct. 30th, 2012 at 11:00 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: black and white tree scene)
Narrative is radical, creating us as it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words that they go down in flames and leave nothing but the scald... For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul... Speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures.

Toni Morrison

  • Oct. 17th, 2010 at 9:12 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: boat in sunset)
There is a level of appreciation that might be available only to the people who understand the context of the language. The analogy that occurs to me is jazz: it is open on the one hand and both complicated and inaccessible on the other. I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don't know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. We have splendid writers to do that, but I am not one of them. It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me. Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world. It is good - and universal - because it is specifically about a particular world.
beth_shulman: (black and white tree scene)
"Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise." Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

"Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise."

In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.

One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, "Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead."

She does not answer, and the question is repeated. "Is the bird I am holding living or dead?"

Still she doesn't answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.

The old woman's silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.

Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern.

"I don't know," she says. "I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands." )

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Toni Morrison

  • Sep. 21st, 2010 at 12:21 AM
beth_shulman: (violin)
If there is a book that you really want to read and it has not been written yet, then you must write it.

Toni Morrison

  • Aug. 19th, 2010 at 7:48 PM
beth_shulman: (Default)
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

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