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French Quarter Tour is another poem included in Love in Winter Missing Ryan. You get to read it first here.


Evans’ Rag

Vol 1 Issue 25

Toni Morrison

From Enoch Pratt Library January 29, 1998  © copyright John Mathew Smith 2001

From Enoch Pratt Library January 29, 1998

© copyright John Mathew Smith 2001

Toni Morrison

Can’t say Toni Morrison had a bad life. She lived a full one: attended college, worked as an editor and a college professor, lectured, published a ton of writing before she died, and what’s wrong with any of that? I’ll skip over the honors and honorary degrees, and just say Pulitzer and Nobel.

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison–choosing St. Anthony of Padua as her confirmation name, i.e. Toni makes me smile.

Timing is everything, and when America needed to find an important African American novelist, there she was. Fortunate? Perhaps, but first she had to do the work, as Steven Pressfield insists. Writers of color are more commonly recognized today than they were in the 70s. Toni Morrison led that parade–fortunately for America. Though she outgrew the narrower racial ‘category’ a number of years ago. From important black writer to great American writer, to writer of the world. And she was fortunate in in being recognized in her own lifetime.

We live in the American Age. Not to imply everyone in the country has evolved or is superior–far from it–more that this culture is The One at present, for better and worse. In a way I’m not able to put into words, that means something–likely in part because I belong to this place and time. Toni Morrison was a writer for this age.

Oprah (no need for a surname) brought Toni Morrison’s book Song of Solomon to her Book Club, and it became a best seller. In all, Oprah brought four of Morrison’s books to her TV audience.

Some people like to dismiss Oprah’s TV show as pandering to the masses, only there’s more of them than the academics. Some people like to imply success is a crime even when it’s earned.

In a New York Times Book Review essay, Stephen King complained about the intelligentsia looking down on popular writers, or nitpicking their work, and I have to agree with him. I’m sure he caught crap for speaking up–the dude’s got more bestselling books than… well, maybe not James Patterson, but he’s complaining? Go, Stephen!

I read Jonathan Franzen’s essay in How to Be Alone about his backing out of an Oprah TV appearance. It wasn’t a kumbaya moment he describes. So here’s the flip side of someone like Patterson, a writer who only wants to be heard through his writing. Standing on principal is unusual in the American Age; we like to brag loud as we can. But I believe Oprah’s Book Club promotes the literature. If it’s a pretty safe position to take, it’s still true.

In another of the essays, Franzen also notes movies and TV can do the same work of novels in depicting the human condition, and he suggests they have contributed to a decline in readers of novels. Given that humans are visual creatures, that could be, but if true, I come back to Oprah’s Book Club as an important restorative. Franzen ultimately went on her show–and if you can find it on YouTube, it’s worth watching.


I’m leaving these photos for a second week ‘cause they’re pretty. Sunsets only come once a day.