A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.
I have heard of Toni Morrison, but never read any of her work. When I saw this book in the store I was drawn to it. I am always trying to expand my reading genres and this seemed like a perfect selection.
The book is divided into two parts, with an interlude. The first part is titled, “The Foreigner’s Home”, the second, “God’s Language” and in-between is the interlude titled, “Black Matter(s)”. The book covers Morrison’s essays, speeches, and meditations on living, race, gender, language, and the current role of politics in America and in effect its relation to the world. It is also about the duty of the press and media and what is the role of the artist in all of this.
Memory (the deliberate act of remembering) is a form of willed creation. It is not an effort to find out the way it really was–that is research. The point is to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in that particular way.
Morrison writes with such elegance that you get caught up in her words, and then focus on the ideas, going back to the power of her prose. The interlude piece on Martin Luther King Jr. is not only searching but also mirrors the contemporary times. This is the kind of voice Morrison is all about – she knows exactly when to make the impact felt through her words and how deep.
It is this rattling I believe that affects the second point: our uneasiness with our own feelings of foreignness, our own rapidly fraying sense of belonging. To what do we pay greatest allegiance? Family, language group, culture, country, gender? Religion, race? And if none of these matter, are we urbane, cosmopolitan, or simply lonely? In other words, how do we decide where we belong? What convinces us that we do? Or put another way, what is the matter with foreignness?
The writing is not only simple, but elegant to the bone. It is as though you are speaking with a friend of sorts who is telling you about life and its ways. Throughout the book, Morrison speaks of the personal and the political and how they are intertwined. The first section, The Foreigner’s Home deals not only with race, but also with the question: What is Home? Where do you find it? What does it mean? At the same time, the section has essays wide ranging from “Literature and Public Life” and also her Nobel lecture.
The Source of Self-Regard is illuminating, thought-provoking, and above all every piece has just been written from the heart.