11 April 2019, The Tablet

Passing on the word

Passing on the word

Mouth Full of Blood: Essays, Speeches, Meditations
(Chatto & Windus, 368 PP, £20)
Tablet bookshop price £18 • Tel 020 7799 4064

Brace yourself for writing that is confrontational, unforgettable and exquisite. Toni Morrison (inset) won the Nobel prize in Literature in 1993. She was the first black woman, and only the eighth woman, ever to do so. This collection, which includes polished literary critical essays, tributes, thoughts, introductory speeches and urgent warnings, is an archive of Morrison’s non-fiction, drawn from both published work and personal papers. Despite the very different forms of writing, organised according to theme rather than chronology of composition, the book grows to “something of great constancy”. Not one word is either trivial or banal. Morrison’s thinking is as arresting and uncompromising as her politics. The earliest piece, dating from 1979, is “Cinderella’s Stepsisters” – a powerful feminist declaration on the subject of the violence women do to other women. But most of the collection addresses themes and concerns emerging from her ­fictional work and projects composed during the 1980s, 1990s and this century. Many pieces are written for her voice, which gives the writing an intimate immediacy.

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