February 24, 2008 archive

Sunday Salon – February 24, 2008

February 24, 2008

3:35 PM

Food shopping. Picking up cat medication. Going to the bank. Household chores.

This is how I spent a good portion of my day. Despite these dreary tasks (running amid raindrops and shielding myself from the cold, gusty wind), I managed to read another 50 pages into my current read: Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. This is my first Morrison novel – and I picked it up with a little reluctance. Although I have heard rave reviews about Beloved and The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s Song of Solomon has garnered mixed reactions. I’d heard about Morrison’s lively prose…but also about her tendency to delve into mystical realism and heavy symbolism – aspects of literature which usually stop me cold. But, this book came up as a group read on my Banned Books group, and so I decided to forge ahead with it.

Morrison writes in the forward about the death of her father and how she mourned him, and mourned the loss of the daughter who had lived in his head. In working through her grief, she began to seek his advice after his death:

I think  it was because I felt closer to him than to myself that, after his death, I deliberately sought his advice for writing the novel that continued to elude me. “What are the men you have known really like?”
-Toni Morrison in her Introduction of Song of Solomon-

This intrigued me, and made me view what I was about to read in a different way. Morrison, who is known for her strong female POV, had chosen to write a novel whose muse was male – specifically her father. Perhaps because I feel the connection between myself and my own father more difficult as he gradually slips into dementia, Morrison’s thoughts about her father and the impact his life and subsequent death had on her writing spoke to me. In any case, it opened my mind to the novel and as I began to read the first chapter I was pulled  instantly into the story.

Song of Solomon is about a black family – Macon and Ruth Dead and their three children … Milkman, Corinthians, and Magdalene called Lena. The novel opens with a man attempting to fly and therefore diving to his death off of Mercy (referred to as No Mercy) Hospital in 1931. This sets the tone for the rest of the novel – a novel about flight…mystical, triumphant, and disturbing.

I am half way through Morrison’s beautifully written novel, and am engrossed. I care about the characters, even those I don’t particularly like. I should finish this one by tomorrow and plan to write a more in depth review then.

In other reading this past week, I finished J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K (read my review) as well as Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali (read my review). I liked them both (more so Ali’s than Coetzee’s…but with Coetzee the reader has to wrack their brain a bit more and so the joy in reading comes mostly from the understanding of the bigger issues at the end).

I think I will be in the mood for something lighter, less thought provoking after I’ve finished the Morrison book.

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