Library Journal Review
Nobel Prize-winning novelist Morrison (Beloved; Song of Solomon) presents a rich collection of essays from 1976 to 2013, primarily speeches given at college convocations, lectures series, conferences, commencement addresses, and symposiums, among other occasions. Topics vary, reflecting the intellectual curiosity and pursuits of the author. As in any collection of this sort, not every selection is outstanding; there are repetitions that call upon readers to skim those pieces less memorable. But for every instance of sameness in topic there are many entries that are educational, revelatory, and enlightening. Morrison is a master of the luminous thought, of the sense of outrage or compassion that makes readers feel as if they are in the presence of an author who deeply cares about literature and the themes that engage her. Topics include the author developing the openings of her novels and deciding what tone or turn of phrase was the perfect vehicle to convey her insights about humanity. Other themes address racism and fascism, the importance of advocacy for the arts, the heritage of slavery, and especially Morrison's tributes to Martin Luther King Jr., writers James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, and William Faulkner, and artist Romare Bearden. VERDICT Essential for Morrison readers who wish to supplement their appreciation of her achievements with her thoughts on American life and literature. Highly recommended.-Morris Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology, Brooklyn © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Some superb pieces headline this rich, if perhaps overstocked, collection of primarily spoken addresses and tributes by Nobel laureate Morrison. Many are prescient and highly relevant to the present political moment. For example, Morrison alludes in 1996 to controversy at the U.S.-Mexico border, writing that "it is precisely 'the south' where walls, fences, armed guards, and foaming hysteria are, at this very moment, gathering." She focuses, of course, on the issues closest to her heart: racism, the move away from compassion in modern-day society, the often invisible presence of African-Americans in American literature, and her own novels. Some of her strongest pieces are the longest: for example, her talk on Gertrude Stein, and her two essays on race in literature, "Black Matter(s)" and "Unspeakable Things Unspoken" are must-reads. The collection is organized thematically, which is helpful, but because the pieces jump around in time, dates would be a valuable addition to the essay titles. And while it is no doubt important to create a comprehensive collection of such a noted figure's writings, the book, which includes 43 selections, can seem padded and overlong at times. Nevertheless, this thoughtful anthology makes for often unsettling, and relevant, reading. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* For more than four decades, Morrison has written luminous fiction exploring the human condition through complex characters and nonfiction works steeped in sharp intelligence and imagination. This collection of essays and speeches covers a wide variety of topics that resonate with current issues. She begins by focusing on notions of the foreigner in the churning global diaspora driven by economics and geopolitical conflict and challenging easy notions of identity. Even as technology has narrowed geographic distances, the global movement of populations of people has provoked fear and freighted perceptions of boundaries and frontiers. In a meditation on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Morrison examines the complex history of race relations in the U.S. and how it has inexorably tied criminality and stigma to black bodies and created a legacy of racism that has outlived slavery. Finally, starting with a touching eulogy of James Baldwin, Morrison takes a close look at her own work and that of writers and artists, including Baldwin, Achebe, Faulkner, and Bearden, and the profound impact of the arts. Morrison turns a critical eye on race, social politics, money, feminism, culture, and the press, with the essential mandate that each of us bears the responsibility for reaching beyond our superficial identifies and circumstances for a closer look at what it means to be human. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Every book by Nobel laureate Morrison is a magnet for readers, and this is a particularly timely, involving, and provocative gathering of though-pieces and inquiries.--Vanessa Bush Copyright 2019 Booklist