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>Toni Morrison – "A Mercy"

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>Halfway through Toni Morrison’s new book “A Mercy” and I am reminded of why I like her books so much. She isn’t a writer of my typical taste. First of all, her comfort in sentimentality treads on thin ice, a style that could potentially curdle. That kind of indulgence always borders on cuteness at best and self-help shlock at worst. But Toni’s work hardly ever crosses the line into sacchrine. That’s because her work centers around myth much more than it does around melodrama. Morrison is acutely aware that America is only myth, grand narratives that Americans believe in, and she doesn’t shy away from it, never mind how nostalgic and romantic it can all be. Why not let a nation tell stories about itself? Morrison knows many of those American stories are lies that try to cover up the indiscretions of reality – slavery, poverty, oppression, murder, theft, the list goes on. Yet she’s attracted to that American mythology, they are lies that bear fruit for her. In “A Mercy” she mucks around in the mythology of American frontiership. And the result is a hazy, mashed up story about pioneers that are white, black, red, female, and male. If the Founding Fathers are the Gods, the strange bedfellows in “A Mercy” are Titans, much looser and ambigious characters that navigated a world far less stratified. Toni Morrison’s look past is pre-State, before the Constitution and legislative body. Within this adolescence of America, contradictions abound and strange bedfellows are both necessary for survival and under less gaze than in a more structured society. Within the queer families of “A Mercy”, and just like the Greeks with their complicated and imperfect dieties, Morrison foremothers and fathers muck around in a fantasy of America filled with contradictions, and so, ultimately truthful.

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Written by alexgfrank

December 29, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Posted in toni morrison