Please avert your eyes if you are unable to stomach a bit of gushing. I LOVED this book. I LOVED it in ALL CAPS. My jaw dropped so far, you could have fit the whole paperback inside like a sideways VCR.
The premise of this book is fascinating, and gut-wrenching, and TRUE. (I won’t spoil it here, but Amazon spoils it plenty if you’re into that sort of thing.) I broke one of the Ten Commandments shamelessly coveting Morrison’s genius from page one onward. And when I finished Beloved, jaw on the carpet, I finally felt for the FIRST time that this whole 100 Greatest Books Challenge business just might be worth it. For the first time, The Challenge went from “a self-imposed, often excruciating, long-term homework assignment” to “the reason I discovered a literary treasure I might not otherwise have taken off my shelf.”
And now I’m inviting you in on the action.
At various times, reading Beloved, I felt:
- Short of breath
- If I were a smoker, I would need a cigarette.
- If I were a mother, I would wrap my children in sleeping bag cocoons and never let them out of my sight.
- Ashamed of my native country
- Pessimistic, and then optimistic, about the human race
- (Upon reading Wikipedia) Seriously, Oprah starred in the film?
- (Still on Wikipedia) I’m not sure what to make of the fact that Morrison’s real name is Chloe Ardelia Wofford.
- (Back to the book) Where are my smelling salts? Oh, right, I don’t have any, because this isn’t the 1850s and I’m not Tom Brady.
- I MUST meet Toni Morrison someday. And when I do, I will gawk like an idiot and form NO coherent sentences.
Wait, what are you still doing here? Why aren’t you out buying Beloved? Do it now! Feel all the feelings. Prepare the edge of your chair in advance.
Is it one of the Greatest Books of All Time?
Two words: Pulitzer. Nobel.
She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it. “Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard…”
And they beat. The women for having known them and no more, no more; the children for having been them but never again. They killed a boss so often and so completely they had to bring him back to life to pulp him one more time. Tasting hot mealcake among pine trees, they beat it away. Singing love songs to Mr. Death, they smashed his head. More than the rest, they killed the flirt whom folks called Life for leading them on.
And if she thought anything, it was No. No. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe.
There are too many things to feel about this woman. His head hurts. Suddenly he remembers Sixo trying to describe what he felt about the Thirty-Mile Woman. “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”