Paradise (Morrison)

I am certain that I have little new to say about Morrison’s writing. When it’s good, it’s very good. When it’s not very good, it’s breathtakingly brilliant. The story, framed by an act of so many kinds of violence, is compelling, if familiar. An all-black town. A seeming utopia. (No one dies.) One generation becomes the next and the oven and its much debated inscription evolve. Things, quite simply, change. And when things change, someone / something must be to blame.

Morrison establishes her usual array of dichotomies. The founders and the followers. The dark-skinned blacks and the light-skinned ones. The town and its outskirts. Paradise and reality. Heaven and earth. And she has the majesty to pull this all off with a book that begins, “They shoot the white girl first” and only gets better.

To be fair, I probably couldn’t pass a test on this novel right now. With Morrison, I always find I am entering into a story in the middle, and that there are bits and pieces I’m expected to know. But I’m okay with that. The book, both in its broad strokes and its finer details, will resonate with me for a long time.


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