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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    • Anonymous on February 24, 2008 at 19:26

    I am glad you are enjoying Song of Solomon. Sometimes it really does make a difference knowing the background of a story. It adds perspective and depth you might not otherwise realize. I have read two books by Morrison, both of which I enjoyed.
    Have a great week, Wendy.

    • Anonymous on February 24, 2008 at 19:42

    There are so many great authors I have never read, and Toni Morrison is one of them. I really should make an effort to read her works. I will look forward to your “official” review.

    • Anonymous on February 25, 2008 at 04:24

    Like you, I’ve shied away from Morrison – putting off, putting off, putting off – when I know that I should really take the plunge. There are four of her book’s including ‘The Song of Solomon’ sitting on my shelf looking accusingly at me as I write. I’m making you and me a promise here, to read at least one in 2008.

    • Anonymous on February 25, 2008 at 11:23

    My favorite novel of all time is Song of Solomon, ever since I first read it in high school. Thank God for inspired high school English teachers.

    • Anonymous on February 25, 2008 at 16:32

    I was not a big fan of Morrison after reading Song of Solomon, and I stayed away from her for years. I only just picked up one of her other books recently, for the My Year of Reading Dangerously challenge. I’m glad you’re liking SoS better than I did, but I’m sorry to hear about your father’s dementia.

    • Anonymous on February 27, 2008 at 11:13

    WendyCat: Thanks! I always enjoy reading the author’s notes on why the wrote what they wrote, etc…
    Jill: I finally picked up Morrison for the Nobel’s Challenge. You should definitely give her a try because I think you’d like her style.
    Anne: I will be watching your blog for your review of one of her books!
    April: I loved the book! I’m right there with you!
    Alisia: Thanks for you thoughts on my dad 🙂 Did you like The Bluest Eye better than SOS?

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