Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio. She now divides her time between Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey. She is Robert F. Goheen Professor, Council of the Humanities, Princeton University. She is the author of five other novels: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, which won the 1978 National Book Critics Award for fiction, Tar Baby and Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
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Excerpt from book:
Sth, I know that woman. She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. Know her husband, too. He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going. When the woman, her name is Violet, went to the funeral to see the girl and to cut her dead face they threw her to the floor and out of the church. She ran, then, through all that snow, and when she got back to her apartment she took the birds from their cages and set them out the windows to freeze or fly, including the parrot that said, "I love you."
The snow she ran through was so windswept she left no footprints in it, so for a time nobody knew exactly where on Lenox Avenue she lived. But, like me, they knew who she was, who she had to be, because they knew that her husband, Joe Trace, was the one who shot the girl. There was never anyone to prosecute him because nobody actually saw him do it, and the dead girl's aunt didn't want to throw money to helpless lawyers or laughing cops when she knew the expense wouldn't improve anything. Besides, she found out that the man who killed her niece cried all day and for him and for Violet that is as bad as jail.
Regardless of the grief Violet caused, her name was brought up at the January meeting of the Salem Women's Club as someone needing assistance, but it was voted down because only prayer--not money--could help her now, because she had a more or less able husband (who needed to stop feeling sorry for himself), and because a man and his family on 134th Street had lost everything in a fire. The Club mobilized itself to come to the burnt-out family's aid and left Violet to figure out on her own what the matter was and how to fix it.
She is awfully skinny, Violet; fifty, but still good looking when she broke up the funeral. You'd think that being thrown out the church would be the end of it--the shame and all--but it wasn't. Violet is mean enough and good looking enough to think that even without hips or youth she could punish Joe by getting herself a boyfriend and letting him visit in her own house. She thought it would dry his tears up and give her some satisfaction as well. It could have worked, I suppose, but the children of suicides are hard to please and quick to believe no one loves them because they are not really here.
Anyway, Joe didn't pay Violet or her friend any notice. Whether she sent the boyfriend away or whether he quit her, I can't say. He may have come to feel that Violet's gifts were poor measured against his sympathy for the brokenhearted man in the next room. But I do know that mess didn't last two weeks. Violet's next plan--to fall back in love with her husband--whipped her before it got on a good footing. Washing his handkerchiefs and putting food on the table before him was the most she could manage. A poisoned silence floated through the rooms like a big fishnet that Violet alone slashed through with loud recriminations. Joe's daytime listlessness and both their worrying nights must have wore her down. So she decided to love--well, find out about--the eighteen-year-old whose creamy little face she tried to cut open even though nothing would have come out but straw.
Violet didn't know anything about the girl at first except her name, her age, and that she was very well thought of in the legally licensed beauty parlor. So s“Wonderful. . . . A brilliant, daring novel. . . . Every voice amazes.” —Chicago Tribune
“She may be the last classic American writer, squarely in the tradition of Poe, Melville, Twain and Faulkner.” —Newsweek
“[A] masterpiece. . . . She has moved from strength to strength until she has reached the distinction of being beyond comparison.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Thrillingly written . . . seductive. . . . Some of the finest lyric passages ever written in a modern novel.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“A compelling blend of heart and language. . . . Resounds with passion.” —The Boston Globe
“Marvelous. . . . Morrison is perhaps the finest novelist of our time.” —Vogue
“The author conjures up worlds with complete authority and makes no secret of her angst at the injustices dealt to black women.” —Edna O’Brien, The New York Times Book Review
“She captures that almost indistinguishable mixture of the anxiety and rapture of expectation—that state of desire where sin is just another word for appetite.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“As rich in themes and poetic images as her Pulitzer Prize–winning Beloved. . . . Morrison conjures up the hand of slavery on Harlem’s jazz generation. The more you listen, the more you crave to hear.” —Glamour
“She is the best writer in America. Jazz, for sure; but also Mozart.” —John Leonard, National Public Radio
“A masterpiece. . . . A sensuous, haunting story of various kinds of passion. . . . Mesmerizing.” —Cosmopolitan
“Lyrically brooding. . . . One accepts the characters of Jazz as generalized figures moving rhythmically in the narrator’s mind.” —The New York Times
“Transforms a familiar refrain of jilted love into a bold, sustaining time of self-knowledge and discovery. Its rhythms are infectious.” —People
From the Trade Paperback edition.