I just put down Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison’s 1978 novel/poem, and am still tingling from it. It reminded me of A Hundred Years of Solitude, another magical book in which its protagonist goes on a journey for reasons that hang in the air. Surely, the only books this one should be compared with are on a par with Garcia-Márquez’s, and Morrison’s own, Beloved.
Since I’m writing at this tiny pinpoint of history in which the United States Justice Department has decided to spend a couple of million dollars investigating discrimination against white people, I would like to suggest that this book, and a couple of others, including another book I just read, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, be required reading for all parties, including the judge, when those discrimination-against-white-people cases come to court.
This book has been reviewed by everybody under the sun, and I won’t add much of my own, except to say that having read it, I feel part of a congregation. Morrison has brought me and her every reader into her intimate company. It’s a wild ride, where the plot doesn’t only have twists and turns, but side trips, ups and downs, and backtracking, yet Morrison keeps the reader on board, clinging by her fingernails. Finishing it feels like an accomplishment, though not an onerous one.
On a technical scale, she’s aced everything: the characters are clear, the language is vivid and evocative, the plot is intricate and solidly connected, and requires little suspension of disbelief, though there is magic.The characters have a touch of unreality about them, they are archetypes, but not of any primordial figure that appears in our dreams. We have never known characters who are quite like them, yet they stand there fully human. The story is a little bit like a dream or a nightmare, but it has blood .
I’m inspired by her genius. I hope maybe a tiny spark of what’s in her work might show up in mine – maybe in a place where I didn’t even realize I was depositing it.