Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for her novel “Beloved,” was awarded the Medal of Freedom today. President Obama said of her, “Toni Morrison's prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt. From ‘Song of Solomon’ to ‘Beloved,’ Toni reaches us deeply, using a tone that is lyrical, precise, distinct, and inclusive. She believes that language arcs toward the place where meaning might lie.”
While preparing dinner yesterday I turned on PBS in the middle of an interview with her. As I seasoned the pork chops I heard her say: “I can write forever about anything of a character. But I wanted this to be -- it's harder to write less to make it more. And that's what was engaging to me when I was writing this book.” Write less to make it more. Whoa! I ran over to the notepad and wrote that down while thinking, oh, crap, I missed most of this interview, momentarily forgetting that I could watch it on line. Duh. I logged on tonight and read the transcript of the interview, and it was great (in the part of the interview that caught my ear the previous night she was referring to her new novel "Home") .
At one point in the interview Ms. Morrison talked about how she didn’t want her books to be in separate African American sections of bookstores, although many African American writers did. “I sort of wanted to be alphabetized.” It’s a wonderful interview, and you can find it here:
Okay, moving away from the interview, I’ve been thinking a lot about what she said about writing less to make it more. One of my biggest struggles in my writing is to say more. I’m a pretty straight-forward writer, and I’m not good with metaphors or similes or other descriptions of place and time. I’m a decent story-teller who is pretty good at plot but not the other stuff. I so admire writers who can turn a beautiful phrase and describe a feeling or a sunrise or a damn blade of grass in such a way to make me stop and think to myself, wow, that is some truly fine writing. Many of those writers are here on OS, and I just cannot believe sometimes that I am part of this amazing community. And so maybe I can come to terms with that. Do what I do but continue to appreciate and stand in awe of the writers who can write with such loveliness, who have that gift, and not beat myself up because I don’t. I can at least try to make my writing “more” even if it’s less.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster