Toni Morrison, Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison My rating: 4 of 5 stars The other day, someone trying to sell a gimmicky book Tweeted the boilerplate provocation that "no novels by white men" should be taught in American high schools for "the next 20 years." She then predictably pitted Ernest Hemingway against Toni Morrison to sharpen her point. … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Beloved

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars In her memorial remembrance of her late friend Toni Morrison, Fran Lebowitz observed that "Toni would always take into account the problems that the person you were angry at had." She was speaking of how Morrison behaved as a friend, but a great … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison, Paradise

Paradise by Toni Morrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars Paradise was not well received upon its publication in 1997—influential critics like Michiko Kakutani, James Wood, and Zoë Heller disparaged it, and even Oprah's audience, instructed to read it for the talk show host's book club, demurred, prompting Oprah to call Morrison to offer the … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Paradise

Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe My rating: 3 of 5 stars Calm block fallen down here from some dark disaster —Stéphane Mallarmé, "The Tomb of Edgar Poe" Edgar Allan Poe must have the strangest legacy in modern literature: he invented both pulp fiction and the literary avant-garde. While … Continue reading Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

Toni Morrison, Sula

Sula by Toni Morrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars Sula is an anarchic novel and a conservative one. Toni Morrison, because she is a sort of multicultural figurehead, passes herself off as (and tends to be received as) some kind of left-liberal; and her later fiction—notably Paradise and A Mercy, both of which tend … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Sula

Franzen and His Enemies

[I wrote this almost two years ago, in September of 2013, and posted it to Tumblr in response to the waves of Franzenfreude then breaking over the Internet, occasioned by the publication of excerpts from The Kraus Project (which I have browsed through but never read cover to cover). As the tides swell again, I … Continue reading Franzen and His Enemies

Toni Morrison, God Help the Child

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a fine novel. Not perfect, not even really complete in a writing-workshop "craft" sense, but surely Morrison's best since Love. God Help the Child is a striking example of Saidian late style: the furious and unresolved valediction. God Help the … Continue reading Toni Morrison, God Help the Child

Gayl Jones, Corregidora

Corregidora by Gayl Jones My rating: 4 of 5 stars The cover of this edition makes it look like a horror movie—and that's not at all wrong. An intense novel, terse as a modern lyric, a monologue organized around its central image: the three generations of women in the house, telling over and over to … Continue reading Gayl Jones, Corregidora