Beloved Info

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Reviews for Beloved:

4

Jan 26, 2009

Beloved is the Great American Horror Novel. Sorry Stephen King: evil clowns and alcoholic would-be writers are pretty creepy, but they just got nothing on the terrifying specter of American slavery! I literally got chills -- physical chills -- over and over while reading this book. To me, great horror has the scary element (e.g., a ghost) and then, lurking behind it, something so vast and evil that trying to think about it can make you go insane. Beloved did that! It worked as horror! And then Beloved is the Great American Horror Novel. Sorry Stephen King: evil clowns and alcoholic would-be writers are pretty creepy, but they just got nothing on the terrifying specter of American slavery! I literally got chills -- physical chills -- over and over while reading this book. To me, great horror has the scary element (e.g., a ghost) and then, lurking behind it, something so vast and evil that trying to think about it can make you go insane. Beloved did that! It worked as horror! And then also, even more, it worked as great American literature. I don't think in these terms too often, but it does seem like there's such a thing as national novels. I'm sure there's a better, fancier way to talk about what I mean, which is books that are so specifically about "The American Experience" that being an American reading them feels very special and intimate, as if it's a book about my own family. That feels like a strange and dorky thing for me to say, but it's how I felt. Slavery is such an essential part of all our heritage that reading this treatment of it felt very personal, like listening to secrets about your grandparents. Beloved really worked on something at the heart of the American experience, and while I don't usually think in those terms this book forced me to, which is one of many reasons why it did affect me so much.

I feel like Morrison has a certain reputation and associations that are completely at odds with what her work is actually like. Maybe it's the Toni-with-an-i thing; it's definitely the Oprah connection and the fact that she's a lady author, but whatever the reasons, I feel like people who haven't read her believe that Morrison writes these lovely, lyrical, ladylike books that will soften the heart and elevate the soul.... and I mean, I guess in a way she does, but these lovely books will give you seriously deranged nightmares. Toni Morrison is out of her MIND! I mean, she really must be in order to write these things. I can't imagine what it would be like to have this incredibly twisted stuff come out of my brain.... Of course, the most horrific parts of the book aren't invented; Morrison clearly spent a lot of time researching the historical record of slavery and thinking about its effects and meaning, and her ability to wrest a novel like this out of that past is just incomprehensible.... because in fact Beloved really is lovely and lyrical, but it's about the most disturbing shit imaginable. It's interesting to see how divided people on this site are about Morrison. A lot of people just LOATHE her! I think that's pretty understandable when you consider her subject matter. Some girl on here was like, "UGH! Beastiality, rape, torture, infanticide.... Toni Morrison is DISGUSTING!" And I mean, well, that girl's got a point, this book was pretty icky.... but it's about kind of an icky topic, ya know?

In a weird way, this felt a bit like the anti-Proust: it's about memory, but instead of being a plotless, enchanting, European meander through a picturesque past, Beloved is a brutal and ruthless American cousin with rough, bloody hands, running through the woods screaming. The book is about the problem of memory, specifically the memory of trauma, both on a personal and national level. I feel like everyone always wants to write these great books about the most terrible shit, but the fact is that doing so right is incredibly hard, which is maybe why there're so many bad books about tragedy and so many good books about boring people's mundane little problems. You really have to know what you're doing to write about the most terrible shit well, and Morrison picked THE most terrible shit in America's past, then wrote an original and organic ghost story that deserves its hallowed place in American literature.... Ya know, one thing we think about in social work school (or that I thought about, anyway) is the relationship between macro events or phenomena (e.g., a war, or racism) and its micro effects on individuals. This book depicts the effects of slavery on people -- individually and collectively -- with, just, well, shattering genius. But don't try this at home, folks! She is a lady of unusual talent and skills, and in most people's clumsy hands this effort'd be dangerous.

Beloved isn't flawless, and it's not one of my all-time favorite books or anything. However, it is a great classic, and I think everyone who hasn't already should read it.... well, actually, let me amend that. A lot of people on here, as noted, hate this book. If you struggle to follow a slightly nonlinear narrative or are white and feel personally affronted by descriptions of historical wrongs perpetrated by white people on black people, you might chose another book club selection. Everyone else, though, I think should give this a go, especially if you love ghost stories!



P.S. I just had a really fun idea for a literary double date, which would be Cathy from Wuthering Heights with Beloved, and Medea with Sethe. They could all go on the Oprah show together and talk about their traumatic experiences! I would definitely, definitely watch that, and I bet other people would too. ...more
5

Oct 07, 2012

"Beloved

You are my sister

You are my daughter

You are my face; you are me

I have found you again; you have come back to me

You are my beloved

You are mine

You are mine"

It's 6 o'clock in the morning and I have finished with one of the best books I have ever read in the course of my short life.
I am sleepless and I need a moment to organize my thoughts, sort out my feelings. Come back to real life. But I can't.

A part of me is still with Sethe and her daughters, Denver and Beloved at 124. A part of me "Beloved

You are my sister

You are my daughter

You are my face; you are me

I have found you again; you have come back to me

You are my beloved

You are mine

You are mine"

It's 6 o'clock in the morning and I have finished with one of the best books I have ever read in the course of my short life.
I am sleepless and I need a moment to organize my thoughts, sort out my feelings. Come back to real life. But I can't.

A part of me is still with Sethe and her daughters, Denver and Beloved at 124. A part of me is being tied to a pole and whipped mercilessly for eating a shoat I skinned, butchered and cooked myself. A part of me is giving birth to children of fathers who forced themselves on me. A part of me is still wondering whether my husband Halle is out there alive and free or long dead. A part of me is burying the daughter I killed with a handsaw because I couldn't live to see her being pushed into the endless abyss of torture and humiliation that I had to endure myself. A part of me is engraving the word 'Beloved' on the headstone of my dead girl, because she has no name.
But it is not I. It is Sethe and Sethe is not I.

I'm not even Baby Suggs (Sethe's mother-in-law) who never had a chance to recognize that she was a human being with a beating heart. Baby Suggs, who only looked at her own hands at the sunset of life and came to the realization that they were her own. Her very own for her own use and not the use of another. Baby Suggs, who was forced to accept the "kindness" of being bought out of slave labour by her own son, at the cost of never seeing him again, never knowing what happened to him.

I'm not Paul D, being made to wear neck braces as punishment for an act of belligerence, unable to move his head. Deeply afraid of starting a new life and adding a purpose to it-not knowing what to do with the new-found freedom after the Civil War. Afraid of loving too much and losing too much because of it.

I'm just a lucky Indian girl who was born in an era free from the worst form of human rights violation that ever existed on the planet. I was not alive during the period of systematic brutalization of one particular race by another just because one proclaimed racial superiority over the other.
I was not in the plantations of Kentucky or Georgia or the Carolinas before or after the Civil War. I wasn't in the hell called 'Sweet Home'.
But Sethe was. So were Halle, Paul D, Sixo, Paul A and Baby Suggs and the unnamed ones. And a part of me is with them and I still cannot wrest it away.

I can perhaps ramble on and on and still be completely unable to write a proper review of 'Beloved'. And I won't even try to summarize the book in a few sentences, since that would be deeply irreverent of me.

Beloved is not just a masterpiece, not even just a remarkable literary achievement.
Beloved is the beauty of the resilience of the human spirit.
Beloved is about hope and endurance.
Beloved tells us about unspeakable cruelty and abuse inflicted on humanity by humanity itself.
Beloved reveals festering psychological wounds, deep emotional scars that could never ever heal.
Beloved is profoundly lyrical and empathetic in its depiction of grotesque events that unfolded during the most ignominious part of America's history.
Beloved wrenches your heart out, shreds it into a million tiny pieces but then stitches all the pieces together and hands your heart back to you - all bloodied and messed up.

Maybe a few years down the line when I read Beloved again, I will write a more coherent review and sound less emotional. Maybe I will get every cryptic message Toni Morrison intended for her reader to receive and decode. Maybe I will not. But I will try.
And I will read this book again when I feel like my life is difficult or I can't go on anymore. I'm sure Sethe and Beloved will be there to hold my hands and lead me forward.

I cannot write anymore. I must go and find myself another tissue.

P.S.:- Apologies for the spoilers I have ended up including in the review. But I just had to write this the way I did. ...more
1

Jul 31, 2007

I don't give books low marks lightly. If anything, I am prone to being carried away by the author's enthusaism and rate books more highly than they deserve. I am an aspiring author, myself, and that also leads me to be kind to the books.

That being said, I really hated this book.

I like fantasy and magical realism. I find the dreams and allegories that live just underneath the skin of the world we can more readily see and touch endlessly fascinating. I like my stories intense and emotional, and I I don't give books low marks lightly. If anything, I am prone to being carried away by the author's enthusaism and rate books more highly than they deserve. I am an aspiring author, myself, and that also leads me to be kind to the books.

That being said, I really hated this book.

I like fantasy and magical realism. I find the dreams and allegories that live just underneath the skin of the world we can more readily see and touch endlessly fascinating. I like my stories intense and emotional, and I like it when characters are so full of passion that it obscures their sense of the world around them.

That being said, I really hated this book.

I found Beloved incomprehensible to the point of absurdity. It's one thing to have a book that is full of magic and poetry or to have a character's passion overwhelm their ability to describe the world from time to time, but I also need to know what is going on. For the story to grab me, I need to know what the story is.

Did I mention that I really hated this book?

I know it's trendy to read Toni Morrison, but I recommend this book to absolutely no one. I found it a borderline insulting waste of my time. ...more
5

Feb 03, 2015

Updated, August 2019: RIP, Toni Morrison

Over the past 15 years, I’ve tried a couple of times to read Toni Morrison’s epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about murder, guilt, ghosts and the brutal, complex physical and psychological legacy of slavery.

Something about the dense, poetic prose and the elliptical nature of the storytelling made it impenetrable. After a chapter or two, I’d give up, perplexed. And I’ve read William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf! This made Oprah’s Book Club?

I’m so glad I Updated, August 2019: RIP, Toni Morrison

Over the past 15 years, I’ve tried a couple of times to read Toni Morrison’s epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about murder, guilt, ghosts and the brutal, complex physical and psychological legacy of slavery.

Something about the dense, poetic prose and the elliptical nature of the storytelling made it impenetrable. After a chapter or two, I’d give up, perplexed. And I’ve read William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf! This made Oprah’s Book Club?

I’m so glad I persevered.

About a third of the way in, I realized just how carefully Morrison had constructed the narrative, which pivots on two horrific events: one involving a mother killing her child (inspired by the actual story of a woman named Margaret Garner), and the other, which informs the first, about an attempted escape by a group of slaves at a plantation – and its violent aftermath.

The setting is 1873, Ohio. Sethe and her daughter Denver live in a house on 124 Bluestone Road. Once a lively place where freed slaves congregated after Emancipation to get news and socialize, it’s now desolate and creepy, haunted by the spiteful ghost of Sethe’s dead two-year-old child – not a spoiler, since it’s introduced in the first few pages. The matriarch Baby Suggs (Sethe’s mother-in-law) is now dead, and Sethe’s two sons have fled the premises.

When Paul D enters the home, things begin to change. He and Sethe worked on the same plantation – called Sweet Home, ironic because it was anything but – decades earlier. They share history, good and bad, and harbour secrets from the other. Paul D’s presence makes the ghost leave, and he alienates the shy, awkward Denver and begins to make Sethe unshackle herself from the past… until a mysterious stranger – with no lines on her hands or face – appears at 124 to mess things up.

Beloved overflows with stories: some tragic, some vicious, some joyous, some brimming with love.

It takes a while to get all the names straight; I found myself flipping back to see when a character was introduced. It’s not a long book, average length really, but it’s dense and full of layered, complex imagery: about water (it's not a coincidence that Sethe's name suggests "Lethe," the river of forgetfulness and oblivion), colours, milk, metal. I'll never forget the description of Sethe’s back, so severely scarred from whippings it resembles a multi-branched tree, or Paul D talking about slaves having their mouths pried open with horses’ bits (“the wildness that shot up into the eye the moment the lips were yanked back”).

Other things that will haunt and disturb me: the idea of black slaves being compared to animals; the sequence in which Paul D discovers just how much he’s worth in dollars and cents, compared to Sethe, who is basically a breeding machine to create more slaves (imagine what that would do to a person’s – a people's? – sense of self-worth). These are balanced out with scenes of kindness and generosity.

Not all the white characters are bad; one feisty young poor white girl helps Sethe deliver her child in a boat, and there’s a subtle portrait of a pair of generous, older white siblings who radiate humanity. And unlike Walker’s The Color Purple, the black men in the book aren’t all fools and rapists. Morrison’s vision is broad, expansive, clear-eyed but ultimately forgiving.

The language is earthy yet majestic, with echoes of Faulkner and even the King James Bible. It’s often hard to read because it feels like you’re wading through an ocean of memories, some of which are buried deep and trying to surface.

The point of view shifts repeatedly. In one remarkable section, we’re given the POV of the dead baby in which she’s caught between death and life. Morrison gives you various takes on the same scene but spreads them throughout the book, so you circle around events trying to get to the truth. Is the truth possible? Do some things remain unknowable?

There’s unspeakable, real human pain at the centre. Shame. Desperation. Guilt. Generations of it. But like much great art, Beloved offers a glimmer of hope and redemption at the end.

"Sethe," [says Paul D], "me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."

Amen. ...more
5

Aug 13, 2019


The brutal truth, brilliantly written. A mother hanging from a tree, the vile debasement of a nursing mother, scars so deep from whipping that they make a design of a tree on a woman’s back, a bloodied dead baby, the ultimate symbol of how truly horrific slavery was. These are some of the images that I will remember long after reading this book. This was not an easy book to read and it’s not one I can say was enjoyable in the strictest sense of the word, but I can say that I appreciated every
The brutal truth, brilliantly written. A mother hanging from a tree, the vile debasement of a nursing mother, scars so deep from whipping that they make a design of a tree on a woman’s back, a bloodied dead baby, the ultimate symbol of how truly horrific slavery was. These are some of the images that I will remember long after reading this book. This was not an easy book to read and it’s not one I can say was enjoyable in the strictest sense of the word, but I can say that I appreciated every word, what the story tells of and how it is told. The past is present in flashbacks, in memory, in stories told by one character to another, in streams of consciousness. The past is always present in the present. It’s a haunting ghost story, but the past is more haunting, more daunting. This blend of past and present requires the reader to pay close attention. I read it slowly so I wouldn’t miss what was happening, what had happened.

What an achievement in storytelling! Much has been written about this book that tells more of Sethe’s story, more of Baby Suggs’s story, more about Denver’s story and more about Paul D’s story and of course Beloved’s. I’m not going to do that here because it’s Toni Morrison’s story to tell and I recommend that you discover it yourself. Just be prepared. That Sethe’s character is based on a real person deepens the significance when as a reader I considered what a mother would do to save her child from a horrific life of slavery.

The news of Toni Morrison’s recent death is what prompted me to finally pick this up out of the basket next to my bed, filled with books I’ve been meaning to read. With every article I read about her this last week, I kept thinking about how much I have missed by not having read any of her books. As difficult as this was to read, I’m glad I did and I know that I will read more so as not to miss out on more of the reasons why Morrison deserved so many accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Literature.

...more
5

Jun 24, 2014

RIP, Beloved Toni Morrison! You changed the way I read!

Sometimes reality is too painful to address in plain, simple narrative.

Sometimes truth has to be approached in circling movements, slowly getting to the heart of the matter through shifting, loosely linked stories that touch on the wound ever so lightly, without getting too close too fast.

Sometimes I read to escape my reality, only to find myself in a universe endlessly more complicated, more painful, more difficult to understand and RIP, Beloved Toni Morrison! You changed the way I read!

Sometimes reality is too painful to address in plain, simple narrative.

Sometimes truth has to be approached in circling movements, slowly getting to the heart of the matter through shifting, loosely linked stories that touch on the wound ever so lightly, without getting too close too fast.

Sometimes I read to escape my reality, only to find myself in a universe endlessly more complicated, more painful, more difficult to understand and follow.

Sometimes basic statements like "I could never understand why a mother would kill her child" seem to dissolve, leaving a confused feeling of not knowing exactly anymore what is right and what is wrong, given specific cruel circumstances.

Sometimes novels shake me and leave me scarred, endlessly sad and grateful at the same time.

Beloved Toni Morrison. Your voice sounds loud and clear through the fog of political thought. Your characters live and breathe and DO NOT ALLOW FOR simplistic explanations.

If you want to know what slavery does to people, read Beloved.

It will not leave you unaffected. It left me speechless. ...more
3

Jul 27, 2017

Beloved is a novel about haunting; it is a novel about the human inability to move on from the past and how easily it can resurface. We may try to move on, but it never really leaves us. And when the past is painful and full of blood it echoes for an eternity.

“You know as well as I do that people who die bad don’t stay in the ground.”

Enter Beloved, daughter of Sethe, a girl killed by her mother many years previous to escape the shackles of slavery. Was it murder? Was it mercy? Was it both? I Beloved is a novel about haunting; it is a novel about the human inability to move on from the past and how easily it can resurface. We may try to move on, but it never really leaves us. And when the past is painful and full of blood it echoes for an eternity.

“You know as well as I do that people who die bad don’t stay in the ground.”

Enter Beloved, daughter of Sethe, a girl killed by her mother many years previous to escape the shackles of slavery. Was it murder? Was it mercy? Was it both? I don’t have the answers, though the past never stays dead. The American slave trade can never be forgotten nor should it. Although Beloved is the physical manifestation that is haunting her mother, the reality is somewhat different. It is her past; it is the injustice she faced and a decision she was forced to make that will never leave her. Beloved is just the embodiment of it.

The novel flicks around in time, moving forwards, backwards and then returning the present. Sometimes it’s mid-chapter with no clearly defined shift. A character’s mind will wonder, returning to a time or place which helps to define who they are in the now. Beloved is no light reading. It is a demanding book. The plot shifts around with little explanation, point of views change randomly and quickly. But, again, this is because the past never truly leaves us. We may be in the present, though our history will always haunt us. And here America is being haunted by her dark past.

Tony Morrison’s prose is eloquent and deals directly with psychological trauma. It’s more than physical scars and life wasted in servitude; it’s about what happens after. The shackles may have been removed but each former slave will always feel them on their wrists biting into their skin. They flock together, building new communities out of those who experienced, and are still experiencing, the pain and hell slavery wrought them. They do their best to carry on and make new lives, though racial prejudice still remains. And it will for many more years.

But who are they now?

There is also a sense of closeness, of inexperience. The world is a vast place, but for former slaves, for those born into slavery, it is dauntingly huge. Imagine spending your entire life in one enclosed space, knowing but a small handful of people, and then suddenly having the world made available to you. You don’t know it. You don’t understand it. All you have ever known is forced labour and the slave master’s whip. Where do you go? Where do you belong? Thus, men like Paul D are forced to wonder with no real sense of belonging. They go from town to town, relationship to relationship, without establishing a strong sense of identity or roots.

Pain permeates this narrative. It oozes out of the characters and their sad experiences. Morrison gets to the heart of the matter and she is uncompromising in her honesty. Certainly, not a novel to be missed though I was glad to finish it. ...more
5

Dec 08, 2008

There are reasons why Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Beloved may be the biggest one. The structure is a ghost story about a woman who killed her own children rather than see them be dragged back from freedom to live a life of slavery, and how the guilt of that act comes back to haunt her. But the real payload here is a portrayal of the slave existence, how it seeps into every pore, affects every emotion, defines one’s world view, how one values education, how willing There are reasons why Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Beloved may be the biggest one. The structure is a ghost story about a woman who killed her own children rather than see them be dragged back from freedom to live a life of slavery, and how the guilt of that act comes back to haunt her. But the real payload here is a portrayal of the slave existence, how it seeps into every pore, affects every emotion, defines one’s world view, how one values education, how willing one can be to love another human being. It is a triumph, a masterwork by one of the world’s great writers, working so well at several levels.

Sethe is the main character. Having already sent her children ahead, this pregnant woman flees slavery in the south and takes up residence with her grandmother, Baby Suggs. But when a posse comes to bring her back, she kills her children rather than allow them to become slaves.

There is a lot here about identity, defining oneself in one’s own terms and not the owner’s for example. Also, there is commentary on the need for and value of community. Sethe’s daughter Denver never strays from their home, but when she finally does, she finds that there is help to be had. When Paul D is in need the community of free blacks is more than willing to help.

The story is based on a real case, on in which Margaret Garner (remembered in this book as the family name given to the less horrendous slave owners) in 1856 killed her children for the same reason.

Most men in this book are oppressors, but a few rise above. Mister Garner, although a slave owner, shows at least some signs of humanity. Paul D is the most developed male character, struggling with his fears and weaknesses, but in search of truth and peace.

Morrison utilizes expected literary devices like foreshadowing (an early image of a white-clad figure hovering over Sethe), flipping back and forth among several time lines, changing from third person to first, classic references (p 174 When the four horsemen came—schoolteacher, one nephew, one slave catcher and a sherrif—the hours on Bluestone Road was so quiet they thought they were too late.) to great effect.

More than just a great ghost story or an outstanding tale of slavery, Morrison has written a classic of 20th century American literature. It will be read forever. ...more
5

May 02, 2016

"Working dough. Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to start the day's serious work of beating back the past."- Toni Morrison, Beloved

"Beloved" focuses on the psychological trauma of slavery which permeates the very atmosphere and even emerges in ghost form. It seems to be a good book to read in the light of the recent discussion on the Roots reboot, as well as the recent New York Times article which discusses how African-American DNA bears signs of slavery. I feel that for many "Working dough. Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to start the day's serious work of beating back the past."- Toni Morrison, Beloved

"Beloved" focuses on the psychological trauma of slavery which permeates the very atmosphere and even emerges in ghost form. It seems to be a good book to read in the light of the recent discussion on the Roots reboot, as well as the recent New York Times article which discusses how African-American DNA bears signs of slavery. I feel that for many this isn't too much of a surprise.

This was a tough read, even tougher the second time around. I never get used to books like this; if anything they get more painful as I become more and more aware of what slavery consisted of. One of the things that always gets to me when reading slave narratives is the burdens the slaves had to endure and with little to no help, but I'm learning about the little things they did to try to endure and survive. Some of their methods may not sound healthy, from our perspectives (for example, limiting love because you know that any time your family could be taken away from you), but this book shows us in many ways how unless we are in a certain situation, it's really impossible for us to know how we'll react to it.

At the beginning of the book, former slave Baby Suggs is contemplating colour, all because she is about to die and she has never had the time to do so before. The world of a slave is small and it doesn't belong to them. And even with freedom the past still haunts them:

"Her past had been like her present--intolerable--and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color."

Love is one of the themes in this book, and throughout I wondered whether love is ever enough to get over the past. Paul D and Sethe's love story is against the odds, with Paul D guarding his heart and Sethe still recovering from deaths, abuse, and children running away. Two very broken people, and Paul D with this sort of mentality:

"He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be. Its lid rusted shut. He would not pry it loose now in front of this sweet sturdy woman, for if she got a whiff of the contents it would shame him. And it would hurt her to know that there was no red heart bright as Mister's comb beating in him."

And Sethe:

"Would it be all right? Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?"

This time around I tried to focus more on the characters I didn't dwell on much in my first read, so Denver, Sethe's daughter, received more of my attention. I pictured her loneliness, loneliness that caused her to value the company of a ghost, which is why she clung to Beloved, who demands so much attention and affection.I ended up liking her character transformation the most:

"In that bower, closed off from the hurt of the hurt world, Denver's imagination produced its own hunger and its own food, which she badly needed because loneliness wore her out. Wore her out."

Pain is a given throughout the book, and I've been thinking a lot about the following quote: "Can't nothing heal without pain, you know." Such a hard truth and the characters in this book had so much more to heal from than the rest of us. ...more
5

Feb 18, 2014

This is one of those rare and beautiful books that begins as if it's written in a code you have to crack. You have the sense early on that you've missed some vital shred of information and it's these perceived black holes that engage your attention on an ever deepening level. As is the case in the best detective novels maddening clues needed to complete knowledge are scattered deftly at every turn. The past is a constant illuminating presence in every present moment. Beloved exploits brilliantly This is one of those rare and beautiful books that begins as if it's written in a code you have to crack. You have the sense early on that you've missed some vital shred of information and it's these perceived black holes that engage your attention on an ever deepening level. As is the case in the best detective novels maddening clues needed to complete knowledge are scattered deftly at every turn. The past is a constant illuminating presence in every present moment. Beloved exploits brilliantly so many of the possibilities the novel offers as an art form. And Morrison has an ingenious control of her difficult material throughout. Beloved is historical fiction, probably the best ghost story ever written along with Wuthering Heights, it has elements of playful magical realism but it's also a raging righteous social document; it's an exciting detective story, a rich and character strong family saga and a moving grown up romance. Rare to encounter a novel written with so much heart combined with masterful artistry. ...more
1

Aug 25, 2008

This is probably my least favorite book I have ever read. I think I hate it even more because so many people like it so much. Unlike really trashy novels, people actually try to argue that this is a great book. But it definitely embodies all the things that make me hate books. It's heavy handed with its message, which ultimately ruins some pretty spectacular imagery. Its also just a giant pastiche of people who can actually write, which makes it just feel disjointed and annoying since it This is probably my least favorite book I have ever read. I think I hate it even more because so many people like it so much. Unlike really trashy novels, people actually try to argue that this is a great book. But it definitely embodies all the things that make me hate books. It's heavy handed with its message, which ultimately ruins some pretty spectacular imagery. Its also just a giant pastiche of people who can actually write, which makes it just feel disjointed and annoying since it switches between standard narration and stream of conciousness and surrealism in intensely awkward ways. It's not even like that switching between different narrative structures is inherently bad, but this book definitely does it in the most ridiculously annoying way of any book I have ever read. Along with the heavy handedness of the whole affair is that this whole book is just trying to make me guilty for being white. It is probably one of the top 3 most unfortunate things in the history of the world that slavery not only ever existed but went on for so long, but I already get that. So really Toni, no need to beat that into my head with a bloody axe (So to speak).
Seriously, even thinking of the entire month I spent reading and analyzing this giant piece of trash gives me a headache. I'm convinced that this book strikes the ultimate low-point on the acclaim vs. enjoyability graph. It's just artsy-fartsy nonsense for people who want to feel like they're reading real literature when they're not. I'm pretty sure I don't have proper words to express my hatred for this book (Or, rather, if I expressed my hatred for this book, my words would not be proper), so I'll just leave it at that. ...more
5

Dec 21, 2009

It has been a while since I last was online (according to this computer's calculations: thirteen days ago) & since then I have finished the monumentally loved "Beloved."

The only way I can describe this sure classic is: "it's a mix between the most brilliant of Hawthorne (his Scarlet Letter bears plenty of similarities to Beloved since it too deals with a time of intense persecution in this country; the roles women played at such historical crossroads; the ghosts of the burdensome past making It has been a while since I last was online (according to this computer's calculations: thirteen days ago) & since then I have finished the monumentally loved "Beloved."

The only way I can describe this sure classic is: "it's a mix between the most brilliant of Hawthorne (his Scarlet Letter bears plenty of similarities to Beloved since it too deals with a time of intense persecution in this country; the roles women played at such historical crossroads; the ghosts of the burdensome past making cameos in the present; haunted house motifs galore... and the secret history which comes back again and again) & the vibrant poetry of Maya Angelou."

This was written in the 198-! Hardly a long time ago, it was analyzed/embraced then as it is now for its hodgepodge of ghost story elements, & romance, and historical biography. Because slavery is such a muddy record in our books, it is certain documents like these, which widen the scope significantly to include various P.O.V.s & jumps in time, that are truly significant to American Literature. The book mirrors the psyche of a woman who chooses liberating death for her child, rather than the awful clutch of slavery. It decidedly marks a usually-undocumented moment when ex-slaves got something close to freedom-- and had to find out how to live, survive, or try to make way for the upcoming generation-- outside of slavery. ...more
5

Jul 03, 2018

124 — The House of the Baby Ghost


Who was Margaret Garner?

Ms. Garner was a former slave, who murdered one of her kids, and tried the very same procedure with the remaining ones.
After a failed escape, Margaret Garner was determined to end not even her own life, but also the ones of her beloved children.
Yes!... She was desperate enough to commit suicide, infanticide, whatever... embracing death as an open gate to freedom!...

Ms. Garner showed no signs of insanity nor repentance.
Those hedious acts 124 — The House of the Baby Ghost


Who was Margaret Garner?

Ms. Garner was a former slave, who murdered one of her kids, and tried the very same procedure with the remaining ones.
After a failed escape, Margaret Garner was determined to end not even her own life, but also the ones of her beloved children.
Yes!... She was desperate enough to commit suicide, infanticide, whatever... embracing death as an open gate to freedom!...

Ms. Garner showed no signs of insanity nor repentance.
Those hedious acts seemed the right thing to do in that particular, cruel, reality picture!

This real life event has been the seed to Beloved and it's probably the only truth you will find in there.
That, and ... needless to say, all the shocking slavery memories and scars!...

Toni Morrison found the real Margaret Garner fascinating and interesting enough to create a whole story about her:
She gave her thoughts, relatives, acquaintances, and... a house to live — 124, a home fiercely haunted by  the missing 3, who was entitled to an afterlife revenge!
124 was reminding the murderess (if I may say so?!) mother that she once had 4 kids instead of 3!


When I think about this infanticide, all I can say is ... maybe in this particular situation, the line between right and wrong, turned out so thin, that it came about invisible!
Let life be the judge!!! ...more
5

Mar 21, 2013

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. You who read me keep your repugnance and horror to yourself. I am here to tell you my story with an iron smile under my chin. The men without skin stole my milk so my mother punished them with my blood. You don’t understand, her love was too thick. I was the already crawling baby waiting to be loved. I am Beloved.

Which kind of unimaginable atrocities can lead a mother to murder her own baby to spare it a certain life full of humiliation and wanton abuse?
How much suffering can a human being You who read me keep your repugnance and horror to yourself. I am here to tell you my story with an iron smile under my chin. The men without skin stole my milk so my mother punished them with my blood. You don’t understand, her love was too thick. I was the already crawling baby waiting to be loved. I am Beloved.

Which kind of unimaginable atrocities can lead a mother to murder her own baby to spare it a certain life full of humiliation and wanton abuse?
How much suffering can a human being undergo before he loses touch with reality and turns to derangement as the only way to cope? But I do wonder, derangement or conscientious remembrance as a sort of self-inflicted punishment?

“Beloved” is a piercing cry of sorrow, angst and promise impregnated with magic realism which disrupts the mind and upsets the body. Set in the 1870s Ohio, this story reveals, in a disturbingly subtle and poignant way, the real value of freedom as opposed to a life of slavery.

Sethe’s has been an oppressed and undignified life, for she is a negro, and she is a woman. Baby Suggs, the mother of her spouse -only in the eyes of God- Halle, tries to warn her about the risks of being a slave woman and insisting on loving her children too dearly. But Sethe blooms with the seed of light which is growing inside her and plans an escape with her family to be able to love freely.
Until one fateful day, when the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, disguised as men without skin, come to take what they believe to be their right. They come to teach a lesson to these proud animals which have had the boldness to believe they can be human beings. It’s an arduous task.
They undermine the body and tear the flesh, proving their power and manhood, forcing their entrance.
They arise as the masters, squeezing all kind of fluxes from emaciated carcasses: urine, spit, blood and milk. But not tears, never tears. The fluxes blend into a streaming river of sorrow and lost hopes which will never reach the cleansing waters.
They wear out the spirit and subjugate the soul, chocking and chopping.
The hummingbirds sing, flapping their wings, and the sunbeams shine through the branches of the trees, which are now adorned with hanging limbless torsos. The natural world, which becomes the imperturbable setting for this irrational carnage, watches as an indifferent spectator.

There is no place to run away to but Sethe’s instinct to feed her children moves her towards a fragile safety where her baby daughter is born. Twenty-eight days of respite it’s all they are given, for the hunting hasn’t finished yet and the Horsemen come to claim their missed prey.
Now, I am not a mother and I don’t know whether I will ever be, but the dread of imagining the flesh of your flesh having to undergo such shaming and degrading misery has to be terrifying. Sethe’s love is too thick, and she can’t remember whether she has two or four feet, animal or human? The only thing she knows is that she can’t allow her children to go through the kind of hell she went through, she wants to spare them all. She only has time to spare one before she is stopped. Her Beloved.
A murderess?
Or a selfless, desperate act of a loving mother?

“Beloved” is the unfinished name that Sethe could afford to engrave in her baby’s tombstone after selling her body.
”Beloved” is also the haunting otherwordly presence and the only company that Sethe and her only remaining daughter, Denver, have in 124 Bluestone Road, after Baby Suggs dies and her two sons disappear one mundane evening.
The perturbing phantasmagorical presence of the killed baby, which at some point is inexplicably reincarnated in flesh, taking the form of a young and attractive woman who appears out of nowhere in Sethe’s porch, drenches the novel in myriads of ways.
”Beloved” is as threatening as she is reassuring.
”Beloved” portrays the perpetual symbol of an act of sheer love, reminding Sethe of her doleful past.
”Beloved” craves for nourishment not wanting to realize that Sethe’s milk has gone sour and is now poisoning what little is left of her humanity.

It is now up to Denver to try to atone for her mother’s sin and to Sethe to allow a blessed man from her past, Paul D., a kind of man who could walk in a house and make the women cry, to offer her the possibility of a future.

This is the sort of novel that defies words and syntax, challenging the reader to put the scabrous pieces together, forcing him to move forward and backward in time, for there isn’t another way to portray its brutish reality than to merge fantasy and facts, dreams and yearnings, magic rituals and ancestral beliefs into a single powerful voice, the voice of the guilty conscience, which becomes the ultimate narrator of the story.
The act of embracing the mystery doesn’t smooth any of the atrocities portrayed in this novel, although the lyrical prose and the symbolic patterns, challenging notions of life and death, make it possible to put across an overwhelming message of hope in the natural goodness of human beings.
An individual might not find enough strength in him to exorcise the ghosts from his past, to break free from his long life bondages, to recover from the nonhealing wounds of his soul. But when embraced by the nourishing arms of the community, when allowed to enter its collective memories and sorrows, he becomes miraculously empowered to banish his worst nightmares, to let go of the shame and the guilt.
A future, free from the shadow of slavery is possible then, where a so much coveted peace of mind can be envisioned, where the hummingbirds will sing and the sundrenched grass will gleam in harmony with smiling faces instead of iron grimaces and scarred necks.

“The future was sunset; the past something to leave behind. And if it didn’t stay behind, well, you might have to stomp it out. Slave life; freed life- every day was a test and a trial.” (page 256)

Disremembered and unaccounted for, I am not lost because no one is looking for me, and even if they were, they can’t call me, for I have no name. I am the girl and I am still waiting to be loved.
This is not a story to pass on.
This is a story to forget so that a new beginning can be born.
But I’m still here. I am “Beloved” and this story is mine.

...more
5

Sep 12, 2008

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Book #23: Beloved, by Toni Morrison (1987)

The story in a nutshell:
To understand the importance of 1987's Beloved, you need to understand that before this first (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Book #23: Beloved, by Toni Morrison (1987)

The story in a nutshell:
To understand the importance of 1987's Beloved, you need to understand that before this first novel of hers, author Toni Morrison was already a respected executive within the publishing industry, and a highly educated book-loving nerd; this is what made it so frustrating for her during the 1970s and '80s, after all, when trying to look back in history for older books detailing the historical black experience, and finding almost nothing there because of past industry discrimination, general withholding of education from blacks for decades, etc. This novel, then, is Morrison's attempt to partially right this wrong, loosely using a real historical record from the 1850s she once discovered when younger and obsessed upon for years, the story of a slave woman her age who once voluntarily killed her own child rather than let her be taken back to slave territory.

In Morrison's case, the novel is set in the decade following the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, up in Ohio (in the northern US) where so many former slaves fled during the so-called "Reconstruction" of the American South in those years. As such, the actual plotline resembles the beginnings of what we now call "magical realism," a style that has become virtually its own new sub-genre in literary fiction in the last twenty years; because not only is this woman's house haunted by a violent poltergeist, but eventually even a young woman appears claiming to be Beloved herself, the bizarre revenge-seeking reincarnated version of the very daughter this woman killed during the Civil War years. But is she? Or is she a runaway taking chance advantage of intimate knowledge she randomly happened to learn through odd circumstances? And does it matter? Just as is the case with most great postmodern literature, Beloved actually tackles a lot of different bigger issues in a metaphorical way, perhaps the more important point altogether than the details of the magical part of the plot, which never does get fully resolved in a definitive way even by the end; it is instead a novel about love, about family, about responsibility, about the struggle between innate intelligence and a formal education. It is ultimately a book about the black experience, a sophisticated and complex look at some of the emotional issues people from that time period must've had to struggle with, Morrison writing their stories for them precisely because none of them were allowed to back then, or were given the education to express themselves in such an eloquent way; and as such, it's not really the "ghost" part of this ghost-story that is important at all, but rather that it serves as a convenient coat-rack in which to hang all these other issues.

The argument for it being a classic:
Well, for starters, it won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and when was the last time you won a Pulitzer, chump? Much more important than that, though, say its fans, it heralded a whole new sea-change in the global arts altogether; a triumphant moment for both black artists and women artists (and especially black women artists), a story that not only speaks powerfully and intimately to all people with that background, but that proves to the rest of the world that it's not just stuffy white dudes who can write beautiful, haunting, instantly classic literature. It's a major highlight of the postmodern period, say historians, a changing of the guard just as important as when the early Modernists shut down the Victorian Age; this one novel and its overwhelming success single-handedly ushered in a whole new golden period for the arts concerning people of color, women, the gay community and more. And not only that, but so far it's held up well too; it was not only made into an extremely high-profile movie ten years later, starring and produced by The Great And Almighty Oprah Hallowed Be Her Name Amen, but in 2006 was named by the New York Times as the very best American novel of the last 25 years.

The argument against:
A weak one, frankly; it seems that most people who read this book end up loving it, and with very little dissent found online. And a controversial argument, too; because the argument against this book being a classic seems mostly to be the anti-politically-correct argument, that books such as these got as much attention as they did in the '80s, '90s and '00s merely because the overly liberal academic community had a political agenda back then, that they were determined to usher in a new golden age for writers of color and women and the gay community, even if they had to falsely trumpet a whole series of merely okay books, or sometimes even semi-crappy ones. It's an argument more often applied to other, lesser books than Beloved, frankly; but like other books in the CCLaP 100 series, you can technically argue that this book started the entire trend, was the one that led to the lesser books afterwards that people complain about in a more valid way. I'm not sure how much water this holds, but you do see people arguing this point online.

My verdict:
So in many ways, this week's book very directly illustrates why I wanted to start this essay series in the first place this year, of why I first thought it good for my own life that I tackle all these so-called "classics" for the first time, and only then thought, "Oh yeah, and I could write essays about the experience afterwards too." Because I admit, as a white male with a Modernist education, I was raised as biased against books like these, and in fact until they started appearing in the '80s and '90s was one of those people who never even thought about their conspicuous absence from world classic/canon lists in the first place. Plus, I'm predisposed to dislike the so-called "ebonics" on display here in Beloved, an aspect of this book that continues to be controversial; that is, Morrison wrote all the dialogue here as actual barely-educated former slaves in the 1870s would've actually talked, making it difficult to follow along and requiring close attention while reading, a decision that some "Western Classics" style professors have accused of being damaging to the arts in the long term, and another bad legacy of the politically-correct years.

But then again, let's plainly admit that I have absolutely loved reading all these old Victorian novels that I have through the CCLaP 100 this year as well, of looking back on the nerdy little overdressed white people who were my very ancestors and seeing how they talked, behaved, what they found important, what they fretted about when the doors were closed, feeling that connection between them and myself, feeling that except for the wardrobe and funky flowery language we were actually quite alike. When thought about this way, suddenly one has a lot of empathy for what Morrison and other intelligent, educated black women went through in pre-Beloved days; they simply wanted to have the same experience I've been having with Victorian literature this year, frustratingly couldn't because of no literature from smart educated black women even existing from those years, so realized that they were going to have to write it themselves. And also when looking at it this way, you realize that the ebonics of Beloved is no worser at all than, say, the Romanticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables; both are old-fashioned language, hard for modern eyes to follow, yet historically accurate and reflecting what those times were actually like. Both require patience, both require forgiveness, but both can offer up richly rewarding experiences if taken seriously and if meeting the author halfway.

It's this essay series, this newfound attention to the historical classics, that is making my brain suddenly work in these new ways this year, to have a more patient and more expansive view of any particular project I tackle; like I said, that's the whole reason I decided to read a hundred classics in the first place, is to hopefully learn something from it, since so many people are always arguing that there's something unique and important to be learned from "reading the classics." It's why I call Beloved today an undeniable classic itself, one of the top-20 titles in fact of this entire CCLaP 100 list, why it turned out to be such a profoundly great book but only once I was ready to accept it on its own terms, and once understanding the real history it references. It gets an extremely high recommendation from me today.

Is it a classic? Yes ...more
2

Sep 28, 2015

Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/



I FINISHED!!!!!!



I realize this is a classic and a Pulitzer Prize winner and yada yada yada, but oh my goodness am I glad to be done.

Dear Oprah, what’s going to happen to me since I hated it????



That’s what I was afraid of.

Going in to this book I knew nothing about it except for the fact that it was on the Banned Books List and that Oprah said I should read it . . .



I did manage to finish, but WHAT. A. SLOG. There are only Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/



I FINISHED!!!!!!



I realize this is a classic and a Pulitzer Prize winner and yada yada yada, but oh my goodness am I glad to be done.

Dear Oprah, what’s going to happen to me since I hated it????



That’s what I was afraid of.

Going in to this book I knew nothing about it except for the fact that it was on the Banned Books List and that Oprah said I should read it . . .



I did manage to finish, but WHAT. A. SLOG. There are only about 47,000,000 reviews out there and I kind of feel like I sacrificed 1,000 years of my reading this instead of just two days so I’m not going to hash and rehash every detail I didn’t like. Really, let’s face facts. No matter what reason I give for not liking this one there’s a good chance I’ll get trolled for daring to have an unpopular opinion so why bother? I will say that Beloved is the only book I can remember reading where I was in love with the story but hated the way it was told. (Sidenote: Beloved is realllllly strangely fitting if you’re someone still looking for a ghost story to add to your October reading list.) I think Toni Morrison’s writing style is one that you’re either going to love or hate. Obviously I fall in to the hate it category, but I’m glad I can say I finally read her. As for Beloved being touted one of the best books of all time???? Thanks for nothing, Oprah!


...more
1

Aug 24, 2008

This is the worst book that I have ever read. It epitomizes what elite academics love about literature: It is dark and nasty (which, to an academic, means realistic) and it is obscure and incoherent (to an academic, this means deep and profound). This is like the deliberately hideous painting that is called "art" by intellectuals: Common-sense individuals question its merit and are told it is complex, beautiful, and beyond the untrained understanding and crass sensibilities of the uneducated. I This is the worst book that I have ever read. It epitomizes what elite academics love about literature: It is dark and nasty (which, to an academic, means realistic) and it is obscure and incoherent (to an academic, this means deep and profound). This is like the deliberately hideous painting that is called "art" by intellectuals: Common-sense individuals question its merit and are told it is complex, beautiful, and beyond the untrained understanding and crass sensibilities of the uneducated. I disliked everything about this book - its leftist message, disgusting characters and grotesque writing style (a conglomeration of broken grammar rules, disorganized structure and ungainly narrative). It is mired in filth with its references to bestiality, sexual assault, psychological torture, violence and infanticide. "Beloved" is quintessential of the literature embraced by academics and which I think is morbid, uninspiring and worthless.
...more
5

Apr 01, 2017

Damn the humans, they are the most enigmatic beings who ever lived, their hearts have reasons that reason knows not, and their heads fabricate worlds the world have never seen, they kill the things they love and are haunted by the memories that fade away by the time but never disappear, but becomes a ghost and gnaws at your nerves, for always and forever….
To be a mother is the most consummate feeling one can have, the one most celestial and earthly alike, you share your blood and flesh with the Damn the humans, they are the most enigmatic beings who ever lived, their hearts have reasons that reason knows not, and their heads fabricate worlds the world have never seen, they kill the things they love and are haunted by the memories that fade away by the time but never disappear, but becomes a ghost and gnaws at your nerves, for always and forever….
To be a mother is the most consummate feeling one can have, the one most celestial and earthly alike, you share your blood and flesh with the one who resides in your womb ignorant of the outer world, the bloody walls and thumping heart his only world, a seed size of a grain gradually becomes something you come to love unconditionally, who feeds on your flesh and sucks your milk, to be a mother is almost godly!
Then there is a world different than ours, a world of less-humans who are bought and sold like corn, where, to live is a curse and to die a luxury, where you are never sure to get bread enough to calm the hunger, where you are never free enough to entertain your eyes with sight of sky, where you are aware of only one color, the color of dirt and hint of sweat, and where you are not named but numbered!
sethe don’t want this world for her children, she ran past the world and stepped into another world, our world, the world of soulless meats, of suspicious beasts, where to love unconditionally is seen beyond question and buffoonery, and where people are stuffed enough bodily to ponder the starvation of soul…if they have one!
She kills the baby girl and will be haunted by her ghost, the baby denied to suck milk, will suck life out of her mother, the baby denied of the warmth of lap, will haunt the home her mother lives, the baby denied to breathe life, will turn the lives of others into living hell….she is beloved and she denies to die!
Morrison is at her best in building most complicated of characters stucked in bizarre tapestry of relations, magical realism is handled craftily, one wayward step and you lose thread of the story wholly, Beloved becomes more than just a repressed memory, but also a representation for the entire community. “A wounded, enraged baby is the central figure of the book, both literally, in the character of Beloved, and symbolically, as it struggles beneath the surface of the other major characters.
All of Morrison’s characters struggle with the psychological repression of their pasts. While much of their pain stems from the horrors of slavery, it is also comes from their relationship with Sethe. Throughout the novel, Sethe suffers more psychological damage than any other character, making it logical that others would find themselves entangled in her life.
As a character, Beloved represents not only her own history as being one who, before her murder, lived along the edge of the line between freedom and slavery, but the history of several generations as she acts out the pain of others by forcing along their remembrances…..as Morrison says:
“Anything dead coming back to life hurts."


...more
5

Mar 16, 2013

In the beginning there were no words. In the beginning was the sound, and they all knew what that sound sounded like. I could leave it like that.

I should, really, I should. Leave it, in her words, in her meaning, in her context and effort and heritage and everything that is not mine. Never will be mine, these things that should rightfully flay me alive every time I happen to dwell upon them, whether in flight of fanciful musings or serious consideration as they so rightfully deserve. The only In the beginning there were no words. In the beginning was the sound, and they all knew what that sound sounded like. I could leave it like that.

I should, really, I should. Leave it, in her words, in her meaning, in her context and effort and heritage and everything that is not mine. Never will be mine, these things that should rightfully flay me alive every time I happen to dwell upon them, whether in flight of fanciful musings or serious consideration as they so rightfully deserve. The only thing I own is the history, and god forbid I forget it for a length of breath.

Except. I see the decriers of her prose, and I wonder. I see the decriers of magical realism, and I wonder. I see the decriers of characters, of plot, of calves in particular, and I have to wonder, especially at the calves. That was what made you stop? Just that? You should know better, by now, there is no excuse calibrated enough to sail you past the port of truth. Especially that.

So I will try. I, descendant of Virginia landowners and parents who refuse to believe in the fact and face of the current US president, will try, and I can only hope for Toni Morrison to let me be. This here Sethe talked about love like any other woman; talked about baby clothes like any other woman, but what she meant could cleave the bone. There, just that, are the words you really need. More of hers, I know, but truly, I have nothing to fall upon besides vague nuances of "slavery", "United States", "the evil that men do". And women, and people, and the days rolling by on the backs of millions, chokecherry trees bleeding through the centuries to a boy named Trayvon Martin today and so, so many others. No answers; no redemption. Just facts and figures and cultures spliced and split along veins of the void, how much can one thing break another, and how long, and how shall it ever be unbroken. "It's gonna hurt, now," said Amy. "Anything dead coming back to life hurts." The voice, though. The voice carries all of that, and beyond it. Listen to the voice long enough, and you will begin to see the hazy and bloodcurdled outlines of the question, the content, the situational chaos bounded by need on one side and means on the other, and the world that will never be able to afford to stop picking up the pieces. All those cultures, crossed over and carted through and cultivated by greed and power, and the voice of a single woman, the last Laureate of Literature of her country, a country still obsessed with whitewashing its foundations. “Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick them out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver—love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.” There is the fiction, and then there is the reality. You will never get a grasp on the latter. But the former, here, will help you on your way. But only if you can bear it, and if and only if you have any hope for tomorrow. For if you have, you must. Saying no more, she stood up then and danced with her twisted hip the rest of what her heart had to say while the others opened their mouths and gave her the music. Long notes held until the four-part harmony was perfect enough for their deeply loved flesh. ...more
4

Oct 04, 2010

223. Beloved, Toni Morrison
Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War (1861–65), it is inspired by the story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in Kentucky late January 1856 by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. Morrison had come across the story "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child" in an 1856 newspaper article published in the American Baptist and reproduced in The Black Book, a miscellaneous 223. Beloved, Toni Morrison
Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War (1861–65), it is inspired by the story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in Kentucky late January 1856 by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. Morrison had come across the story "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child" in an 1856 newspaper article published in the American Baptist and reproduced in The Black Book, a miscellaneous compilation of black history and culture that Morrison edited in 1974.
دلبند - تونی موریسون (روشنگران و چشمه) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پنجم ماه آگوست سال 2011 میلادی
عنوان: دلبند؛ نویسنده: تونی موریسون؛ مترجم: شیرین‌دخت دقیقیان؛ تهران، روشنگران و چشمه؛
کتاب را بانو «شیریندخت دقیقیان» با عنوان «دلبند»؛ و بانو «گلرخ سعیدنیا»؛ و بانو «ساناز صحتی» با عنوان «محبوب»، ترجمه کرده اند؛ تونی موریسون نخستین زن سیاهپوست، که برای «دلبند» جایزه نوبل ادبیات دریافت کرد. در سال 1998 میلادی فیلم این رمان، به کارگردانی «جاناتان دیم» و تهیه کنندگی و بازی «اپرا وینفری» ساخته شد. داستان به دوران سیاه بردگی، و ترحم به بردگان سیاهپوست میپردازد. داستان دردناک یک برده ی زن و سیاهپوست به نام «ست»، که دختر خود را میکشد تا او را از وحشت زندگی در بردگی در امان دارد. داستان «ست»، زندگی حقیقی برده ای به نام: «مارگارت گارنر» است، که در سال 1856 میلادی از دست صاحبش در «کنتاکی»، به امید یافتن پناهگاهی در «سین سیناتی» فرار میکند. اما درست هنگامی که صاحبانش او را دستگیر میکنند، امید خود را از دست میدهد، و یکی از دخترانش را با چاقوی قصابی میکشد. موریسون بسیار زیبا این داستان واقعی را با پیش زمینه برده داری بسط داده است. به دوران فراموش‌ شده‌ ی بردگی و برده‌ داری و ترحم به بردگان سیاهپوست می‌پردازد. پیوستگی میان شخصیت‌های زن، و چند‌لایه بودن در روابط میان آن‌ها، باعث جذابیت‌های احساسی ویژه ای شده‌ است، به عناصر اجتماعی، روانشناسی و فلسفی زندگی انسانی می‌پردازد. ا. شربیانی ...more
5

Jul 16, 2016

How to review a book like this, and it is a great book; I’m not sure I have the superlatives it deserves. Morrison based the novel on the story of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who killed her child as she was being recaptured, to save the child a lifetime of slavery. The setting is around the time of the civil war. The plot and the storyline are well known and it seems most of my GR friends have either read it or have it on their tbr lists.
The writing is great and there is a strong sense of How to review a book like this, and it is a great book; I’m not sure I have the superlatives it deserves. Morrison based the novel on the story of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who killed her child as she was being recaptured, to save the child a lifetime of slavery. The setting is around the time of the civil war. The plot and the storyline are well known and it seems most of my GR friends have either read it or have it on their tbr lists.
The writing is great and there is a strong sense of place;
“And in all those escapes he could not help being astonished by the beauty of this land that was not his. He hid in its breast, fingered its earth for food, clung to its banks to lap water and tried not to love it. On nights when the sky was personal, weak with the weight of its own stars, he made himself not love it. Its grave-yards and low-lying rivers. Or just a house—solitary under a chinaberry tree; maybe a mule tethered and the light hitting its hide just so. Anything could stir him and he tried hard not to love it.”
But it is a horror story (and I don’t mean the ghost), horror in the true sense of the word, slavery. It has been argued that Morrison is confronting and highlighting things not recorded or told by histories narrated by white historians. It isn’t comfortable and it is difficult to read; as it should be. I think this is also where some of the negative reviews come from; because the novel is not polemical and the characters have and enduring humanity with nuance. There are reviews saying this is the worst book ever, expressing hatred and loathing for the novel. Hatred and loathing; worst book ever! There are so many bad, bad books out there. This isn’t a bad book, I can understand difficult, I can understand not really liking magic realism or the use of the ghost motif. I don’t get the hatred. I wonder if it is being forced to look at something in the past, that is still in the present and that we are unwilling to face. It seems that slavery has now to be a topic studied in history; making it too real and present creates strong reactions. We still minimize and gloss over in the west the horrors we perpetrated on other parts of the globe. The European powers and the US killed far more than the Nazis did in the slave trade and we still have a problem calling it genocide.
Morrison makes it all human and personal and brings it home. ...more
1

Jan 07, 2009

I hate this book. But I guess I should say why. Some might say that I was too young to read this book since I read it when I was 15 but I'm a few years older now and I still hate it with seething anger. I heard that Toni Morrison was a good writer so when we had to pick a book from this long list I decided to read it. BIG MISTAKE!

I didn't like any of the character -at all-or the plot. I know the book is supposed to give you a view on the cruel treatment of slaves but after I finished I actually I hate this book. But I guess I should say why. Some might say that I was too young to read this book since I read it when I was 15 but I'm a few years older now and I still hate it with seething anger. I heard that Toni Morrison was a good writer so when we had to pick a book from this long list I decided to read it. BIG MISTAKE!

I didn't like any of the character -at all-or the plot. I know the book is supposed to give you a view on the cruel treatment of slaves but after I finished I actually less sympathetic for them. How exactly am I supposed to feel sympathetic to people who screw cows -that is just disturbing on so many levels- and kill their own babies. Paul D even admitted that the male slaves usually rape the girls. Beloved (the charater) is supposed to give the book more depth but she was just confusing and quite annoying, so is the mom by the way.

The writing of the book was good and believe me its painful for me to give any praise whatsoever to this book. There are metaphors, similes, symbols, personification, and basically everything that is an English teachers dream. But that does not mean it was a good book in the least. I like a decent metaphor as much as the next person but that is not what I think makes a good book. You know how your supposed to feel all deep and intelligent after you read classic book. Nope didn't happen.
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5

Sep 21, 2013

the sadness was at her center, the desolated center where the self that was no self made its home. Sad as it was that she did not know where her children were buried or what they looked like if alive, fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself, having never had the map to discover what she was like. I’m accustomed to hear different stories. I’m accustomed to live around different lives. I’m more used to beauty than ugliness. I’m more used to songs than silence. I’m more used the sadness was at her center, the desolated center where the self that was no self made its home. Sad as it was that she did not know where her children were buried or what they looked like if alive, fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself, having never had the map to discover what she was like. I’m accustomed to hear different stories. I’m accustomed to live around different lives. I’m more used to beauty than ugliness. I’m more used to songs than silence. I’m more used to satiety than starvation. I’m more used to justice than unfairness. I’m more used to freedom than servitude. I’m more used to love than hate. I’m more used to living my life on my own terms. It was not like that. I used to include ‘us’ in my worldly and naïve notions when my infantile imagination was not maligned by any negativity and everything used to be just and equal for everyone. Not anymore. It was never like that. As the years added up to my age, the real picture started unveiling itself step by step. Now you better look at me. Now you should know my name. Now you’re ready to feel my pain. It never demanded sympathy or tried to make me feel guilty. It simply asked for recognition and I’m still in the process of recognizing. It’s a long road ahead where every milestone is a tantamount to a tombstone of unfortunates around the world. Some of them are blessed with names, some are nameless. Some lived to tell their stories; some passed their stories to others. Some left little traces of their existence while others left without a trace. Some waited to be loved and some died because they were loved.

Beloved.

A book like Beloved doesn’t come across as a part of a riveting art or just another attempt at achieving something different in novel writing. These things are secondary. It is first and foremost a tight slap on the face of humanity. A testimony of atrocities for those lives that never had anything easy going for them. It’s all being said, written and witnessed before but what a shame that things continue to remain bleak. In matters of such bleakness, we need such books to extract reminiscences of a past which is not a part of our memories, to see something which is not within our sight and to know the value of things we have received without paying any price. "I'm free, you know." No golden cages or endearing masters who sing songs and ask you to imitate them or make you dance on the tunes coming out of their instruments. Not in the least. Walking on the bed of red hot coals is more like it. Swimming in the ocean of lava can be another analogy. The irony lies in the fact that there exists humans who endured all this rather than dying a fast death and when they were offered cold water to nurse their wounds, they must have realized that the time has probably come to proclaim – I’m Free. Toni Morrison has created this novel around this proclamation. She’s a smart writer. She knows how to pass on these stories. The stories of Sethe, Denver, Baby Suggs, Paul D, Sixo and Beloved. She weaves their lives in slow, piercing strides and by the time reader takes in the gravity of her words, it’s too late to escape.

Sethe knew that the circle she was making around the room, him, the subject, would remain one. That she could never close in, pin it down for anybody who had to ask. If they didn't get it right off-she could never explain. Because the truth was simple, not a long drawn-out record of flowered shifts, tree cages, selfishness, ankle ropes and wells.

Morisson takes up this form of narration in Beloved. She moves in circle and every circle is marked with a center, a deep abyss of human cruelties and extent of human suffering. The more deep you see the more darkness you’ll receive. The language of characters is marked by the amount of pain they have tied around their chest and in the gaps of their pauses; one can notice the breaths they have saved for a life when they’ll be united with their 'self'. Meanwhile, their lives present itself as nothing but a despicable definition of slavery. The scars on their backs are beautified by calling them Chokecherry Trees. The milk from a mother’s breast is preserved to feed her children but when her guards are down, she is violated and forced to feed the demonic mouths with mossy teeth. And when the nature is defied, supernatural is required to step in. With metaphors, symbolism, pain, death and resurrection, Beloved urges us to hear her silent tears. Her story deserves to be passed on.

With Love.

Beloved.

...being so in love with the look of the world, putting up with anything and everything, just to stay alive in a place where a moon he had no right to was nevertheless there. Loving small and in secret.
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2

Mar 14, 2015

You know, sometimes I just don’t get other readers. I can’t relate to their reactions, their expectations, their way of looking at things. Take Beloved, a book that I have only ever part read, having given up about a third of the way into it. Reaction to the book seems to be about evenly split between those who hate it and those who love it. Which is fine, of course. Yet the haters appear to base their antipathy on the subject matter; they, according to the reviews I’ve read, have a problem with You know, sometimes I just don’t get other readers. I can’t relate to their reactions, their expectations, their way of looking at things. Take Beloved, a book that I have only ever part read, having given up about a third of the way into it. Reaction to the book seems to be about evenly split between those who hate it and those who love it. Which is fine, of course. Yet the haters appear to base their antipathy on the subject matter; they, according to the reviews I’ve read, have a problem with someone writing about slavery; they compose their reviews metaphorically throwing their hands around in wild fashion as if to keep this objectionable topic away. It’s as though Morrison was trying to convert them to Catholicism or something. I can’t get my head around it at all. Their argument, as far as I can gather, is that slavery was, y’know, a long time ago and we’re now entirely inclusive and lovely towards all people and so writing about slavery is tantamount to trying to make us [by which I mean white people] feel guilty for something that 1. we didn’t ourselves do and 2. we can’t control i.e. the colour of our skin. Honestly, go look around the web [including this site]; I’m not making this shit up.

What do you say to ignorant crap like that? Part of me would prefer to say nothing because I find it exhausting arguing against such obvious idiocy. But if I was forced to respond I might well state, first of all, that, uh, racism does actually still exist. And so the subject is, er, not entirely irrelevant. Secondly, even if it didn’t exist in our society, even if we were all living in multi-cultural hippy communes, what exactly would be wrong with someone writing about slavery and persecution? I might be wrong of course [I’m not], but I’m pretty sure Morrison didn’t put the necessary effort and time into writing a book just to make some twat in Milton Keynes feel guilty. If you ask me, I’d guess that it may be that, as a black woman, as a human being, she would be interested in exploring and understanding such a pivotal and lamentable part of [her/our] history.

For me, the point of writing a book like Beloved is to elevate a terrible part of history beyond mere statistics. Like with the holocaust, it’s easy sometimes to get lost in numbers, to forget that individual people were affected or perished. Beloved personalises slavery, which makes it easier for people-in-general to identify with the subject. I would say that is very important. As far as I’m concerned, we should not be allowed to forget, to push these things under the carpet. You cannot live in a vacuum, where history is meaningless except for passing exams and making a HBO mini-series. This stuff is part of who you are and continues to play a role in how the world, your world, works. And, yeah, I know what people say, which is that there are plenty of tragedies not given the same status, or attention; these people ask, why aren’t we talking about what happened in Bosnia, Serbia, Nigeria, etc? My response: stop whinging and write a book about those places/conflicts/tragedies, then.

However, I did, of course, quit Beloved without finishing it, although my doing so, my quitting, obviously had nothing to do with white guilt; my issues with the novel aren’t political ones, but, rather, they are bookish ones. I didn’t feel as though Toni Morrison was preaching at me, but I did feel as though the book was too heavy-handed and overwrought, and even cringingly trite and saccharine. In fact, the thing struck me as something like what Faulkner might have produced had you plied him full of E and asked him to write a chick-lit novel.

Just consider this line:

"Jump, if you want to, ‘cause I’ll catch you, girl. I’ll catch you ‘fore you fall."

And this:

"He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. ‘You your best thing, Sethe. You are.’ His holding fingers are holding hers."

The most polite thing I can say about those two quotes is that neither strike me as good writing.

What about this:

"In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved."

I mean….dear God. And the thing is, I totally agree with the sentiment of almost everything in the above passage; it’s the presentation of that sentiment that bothers me.

Every sentence in Beloved aches [or creaks] with emotion, with meaning and significance; and, for me, the impact of the story, and the full horror of the subject that Morrison was dealing with, was compromised by that. Cards on the table, I found the book entirely ridiculous. Throughout my reading, I wanted on almost every page to tell her: tone it down, and let the story breathe a bit; I wanted to chide her: you’re trying too hard. I felt as though some of her choices weren’t made in order to serve the story, but because she was trying to impress. Ironically, for someone who, I think I am correct in saying, teaches or taught English literature or creative writing, I would say that she needed advice and guidance herself. Someone needed to look at the manuscript and take a red pen to it, with little notes in the margin saying 'is this necessary?'

What is strange about Beloved is that it is both saccharine and brutal. There’s a weird tension between the florid style, the sentimentality, and the subject matter and some of the content; it is a book that screams excess; everything is taken just a bit too far; Morrison displays a distinct inability to rein in it, and a lack of subtlety and control. So, one minute we’re getting told about how breast milk was forcibly harvested from Sethe, the next she and Paul D are sharing a tender moment, as he feels up the scars on her back and rambles on poetically-symbolically about a tree.

Probably the most glaring misstep in the novel occurs long after I gave up on it. Struggling badly to overcome my reservations about the quality of what I was reading, I had a look at some online reviews. It was then that I came across the opinions outlined in my initial paragraphs, but it was also then that I found out that the baby – the ghost baby, the slaughtered baby – at some point in the novel is apparently heard in the text; by which I mean that we have access to its thoughts or words. And, I, ah, I dunno about you, but that just seems ludicrous to me; it’s almost akin to gross incompetence or mishandling of your material. Why on earth would you do that? The fate of that child speaks loudly enough, all Toni Morrison is doing by giving it a voice [a stream of consciousness voice, I believe] is cranking up the melodrama to 1000. And I had a thought upon that discovery, a thought that ran: I’m not reading all this to get there. ...more
5

Dec 04, 2012

“Darkness is stronger and swallows them like minnows.” - Toni Morrison, Beloved

“Beloved” is a beautiful, haunting story that is set around the time following the slavery emancipation declaration. It’s mysterious and supernatural, as well as being a love story, a tale of horror, forgiveness, loss and confusion. It’s very poetic and lyrical, full of metaphors and powerful imagery.

The book tells the story of Sethe, a runaway slave who has left her home in the South but is still living in the “Darkness is stronger and swallows them like minnows.” - Toni Morrison, Beloved

“Beloved” is a beautiful, haunting story that is set around the time following the slavery emancipation declaration. It’s mysterious and supernatural, as well as being a love story, a tale of horror, forgiveness, loss and confusion. It’s very poetic and lyrical, full of metaphors and powerful imagery.

The book tells the story of Sethe, a runaway slave who has left her home in the South but is still living in the past. Her deceased two year old baby supposedly haunts 124, the house in which she and her daughter Denver live. Later, we find out the awful way in which the baby died and that makes the story even more tragic.

The house is an ominous character in the book; it had a life of its own. I felt the hopelessness of Sethe and Denver who had no place else to go:

“So Sethe and the girl Denver did what they could, and what the house permitted for her. Together they waged a perfunctory battle against the outrageous behaviour of that place; against turned-over slop jars, smacks on the behind, and gusts of sour air. For they understood the source of the outrage as well as they knew the source of light.”

The love story in this book is a different kind of love story, a love story that involves a couple,Sethe and Paul D, who were once slaves. How can people move on from being slaves to being in free relationships? As slaves they became accustomed to their loved ones, their parents, children and lovers being sold or running away. The past has left scar marks like the scars in the shape of a chokeberry tree on Sethe’s back.

“And then she moved him. Just when doubt, regret and every single unasked question was packed away, long after he believed he had willed himself into being, at the very time and place he wanted to take root- she moved him. From room to room. Like a rag doll.”

What I found very powerful was the term Morrison used “rememory,” which is remembering memories. I experienced it when I visited a slave memorial in Zanzibar and entered the dungeons where the slaves had been kept. Obviously the slaves aren’t there anymore but I felt a multitude of emotions and I felt as though they were still there in some form.

I found it nearly impossible to read large chunks of the book at a time; I had to take breaks. Toni Morrison stands in a class of her own.This book was beautiful yet tragic; a true masterpiece.
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