celebrating people of color in the arts

Toni Morrison “A Mercy”

In books on November 3, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Ana Juan

John Updike recently reviewed Toni Morrison’s latest novel, A Mercy (Knopf, 2008) in The New Yorker. He seemed more impressed with the legacy of Toni Morrison’s early body of work than her current presence on the literary scene. Needless to say, it was not a flattering review. Neither was the The New Yorker’s illustration of her (pictured above). Outlined in both image and review is an angry black woman. Both depictions are disappointing, to say the least. 

Updike: “This author’s early novels were breakthroughs into the experience of black Americans as refracted in the poetic and indignant perceptions of a black woman from Lorain, Ohio; as Morrison moves deeper into a more visionary realism, a betranced pessimism saps her plots of the urgency that hope imparts to human adventures.

A Mercy begins where it ends, with a white man casually answering a slave mother’s plea, but he dies, and she fades into slavery’s myriads, and the child goes mad with love. Varied and authoritative and frequently beautiful though the language is, it circles around a vision, both turgid and static, of a new world turning old, and poisoned from the start.”

  1. I’ve read Morrison’s A Mercy and found it engaging for its style. Morrison’s tightly seived prose unearths characterization from the dreamy graves of the historical past. The narrative in stream of consciousness mode can be off-putting at times, but it’s saved by her ear for rhythm and alliteration.

    Ben Antao
    Toronto, Ontario

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