|by Toni Morrison|
Every time I planned to read Beloved, I managed to find something else to do beforehand. Perhaps I needed to find some vintage rings I could not buy, or maybe I needed to check my website stats for the fifth time that day, and come now, Dawson's Creek won't watch itself. I am also proud to say that I procrastinated for a whole hour and a half before sitting down to write this review.*
I realize I did this because reading Beloved felt like a school assignment.
Yes yes, I'm feeling guilty about this. I really wanted to devour this book. I know Beloved is a classic. It's an important piece of fiction because it gives us an insight into the real horrors of slavery and the on-going horror of post-slavery America for black citizens of our country. Oh it's heavy:
I'd like to say that Beloved felt like a literary gift, as if Morrison wept golden tears from heaven then covered them in honey and wildflowers and delivered them to us lowly mortals in book form. In reality, Beloved felt like a chore.
Unlike most of the tripe I feed my brain, Beloved is straight up Literature. Toni Morrison's legendary book is dripping with poetry, elaborate metaphors, and elegant allusions. It melds unimaginable beauty with unimaginable ugliness and touches on the experience of African Americans through the Civil War and over four generations. Every line of Morrison's seminal novel feels like a verse of a poem, all while effortlessly intertwining the authentic dialect and vernacular of the people of this era.
All this results in a story that is dense and difficult to navigate for a casual reader, inexperienced in the ways of this kind of prose. It took effort to amp myself up enough to read Beloved because it took serious energy to digest each page. Perhaps I'm not an advanced enough reader to delight in a book like Beloved. Maybe poetic language just isn't my cup of tea, but I don't think I missed out on anything because of this.
Beloved wasn't a page-turner because it wasn't intended to be one. There are lots of hidden bits in this book, and I could see how one would want to read multiple times. There is no devouring going on here. Beloved is meant to be eaten slowly so you can reflect on each bite. If you are a contemplative reader, Beloved is a rich read.
Random thoughts (*spoilers* here):
- Throughout the story, I had nothing but the most sympathy for Sethe. I couldn't wrap my head around why everyone hated her so much. Is it because she's got a holier-than-thou attitude? Is it because she killed her baby? Geez people. Cut the woman some slack.
- Okay, is it because Oprah ended up playing her in the movie, so you were picturing Oprah in your head the whole time?
- At one point, I misread a paragraph and thought Sethe had literally never escaped from Sweet Home and had a mental break, making her entire life of freedom an elaborate fantasy. I was in shock for a good 5 minutes before I came to my senses and realized that modern cinema has completely warped my fiction expectations.
- I can't imagine how much work would have to go into writing a novel like this. To gather a knowledge of the era, the language, the customs, and then weave together such an intricate story. I tip my hat to you, Toni Morrison.
- I suppose you don't need my hat-tipping, you Pulitzer Prize Laureate you.
- If I make a collage of my favorite quotes, do I get extra credit?
Optimal Reading Situation: The softest most luxurious spot in your house. Light a candle or something.
Optimal Reading Snack: A cup of coffee mixed with melted ice cream topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup drizzle, and crumbled Heath Bar bits.
Optimal Reading Followup: I need a nap.
*You don't even want to know how many times I consulted a thesaurus while writing this review.
This review is from my Summer Book Club series.
Next up: Bossypants by Tina Fey