ext week the world’s “pre-eminent African-American writer” will publish a novel that imagines an America before racial categories jelled, said Susanna Rustin in the London Guardian. “My books are always questions for me,” says Toni Morrison, now 77 and 15 years removed from winning the Nobel Prize in literature. “You ask a question, put it in a time when it would be theatrical to ask, and find the people who can articulate it for you.” In A Mercy, Morrison’s first novel in five years, the question is what slavery would have looked like if racism were removed from the equation. She had to look back to the 17th century to find out.
Morrison’s portrait of an era when many American slaves actually were white will attract familiar lines of criticism, said Kevin Nance in Poets & Writers. One of the knocks against her novels is that they’re too political. Morrison just shrugs off such attacks. “Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings?” she says. “All good art is political.” The other box she has difficulty escaping is the assumption that all of her writing is about race. A Mercy won’t change the minds of anyone who thinks that. But they may, Morrison says, be surprised by the historical truths the novel illuminates. “Many white people in the United States,” she notes, “are descendants of slaves.”
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why are so many elderly Asians killing themselves?
- Why ABC threw its Bachelor under the bus
- Why I'm sick and tired of seeing naked women on HBO
- Driverless cars may be an environmental disaster
- Repealing ObamaCare would now mean kicking 4.2 million people off their new insurance plans
- Why Ted Cruz is the real-life Frank Underwood
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
Subscribe to the Week