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Fisticuffs

Adam Lively, 10 March 1994

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 
by Paul Gilroy.
Verso, 261 pp., £11.95, November 1993, 0 86091 675 8
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Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture 
by Paul Gilroy.
Serpent’s Tail, 257 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 9781852422981
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... a persuasive case for seeing this ambivalence as central to the writings of Du Bois, Wright and Toni Morrison, and to black music. Some of the essays in Small Acts are rehearsals for The Black Atlantic, and there is a certain amount of repetition within the collection. But there are also valuable pieces on popular culture – Frank Bruno, Spike ...

Then You Are Them

Fredric Jameson: Atwood, 10 September 2009

The Year of the Flood 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 434 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 7475 8516 9
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... of an ideological doctrine? In a post-feminist age, whose great writers (Ursula Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Christa Wolf) are not women writers but just writers, Atwood does not easily fit some category labelled feminist: The Robber Bride, whose male figures are mostly not even violent but simply inept (the masculine ‘masquerade’, said ...

Plummeting Deep into Cold Pop

Zachary Leader: Colson Whitehead, 13 December 2001

John Henry Days 
by Colson Whitehead.
Fourth Estate, 389 pp., £12, June 2001, 1 84115 569 1
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... praise from American critics. Whitehead is black and comparisons were made to Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed. John Updike has called him ‘blithely gifted’, ‘the young African-American writer to watch’. Whitehead’s new novel, John Henry Days, is longer and more ambitious than The Intuitionist, and the suggestion in its title ...

Long live the codex

John Sutherland: The future of books, 5 July 2001

Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future 
by Jason Epstein.
Norton, 188 pp., £16.95, March 2001, 0 393 04984 1
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... line up to offer puffs for Book Business: ‘brilliant, moving and profoundly insightful’ (Toni Morrison); ‘a putative classic … fine and impeccable style’ (Norman Mailer); ‘an extremely important literary document, elegantly written and impeccably argued’ (E.L. Doctorow). Norton should distribute little blue sachets of salt, like the ...

I love her to bits

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Testaments’, 7 November 2019

The Testaments 
by Margaret Atwood.
Chatto, 419 pp., £20, September 2019, 978 1 78474 232 4
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... being told to ‘check your privilege’, and it’s titillating. In an introduction to Beloved, Toni Morrison wrote about her attempt to write about the ‘different history of black women’ in America: ‘a history in which marriage was discouraged, impossible or illegal; in which birthing children was required, but “having” them, being ...

Why do white people like what I write?

Pankaj Mishra: Ta-Nehisi Coates, 22 February 2018

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Hamish Hamilton, 367 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 32523 0
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... punishment. They took the initiative. Clinton, hailed as the ‘first black president’ by Toni Morrison, ended what he called ‘welfare as we know it’ and deregulated financial markets. Amid a national panic about ‘street terrorists’, he signed the most draconian crime bill in US history in 1994, following it up two years later with an ...

The Magic Bloomschtick

Colin Burrow: Harold Bloom, 21 November 2019

The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon 
by Harold Bloom, edited by David Mikics.
Library of America, 426 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 59853 640 9
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... a wider world of writing. There are chapters on black authors (Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Robert Hayden, Jay Wright) as well as on 12 women writers. Toni Morrison (‘a child of Faulkner’) is given shorter shrift than she deserves and told off for being ideological, but some ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism, 15 December 2011

... Nina Power writes towards the end of her chapbook, One Dimensional Woman. She then hands over to Toni Morrison speaking to Time magazine in 1989. On single-parent households: ‘Two parents can’t raise a child any more than one. You need a whole community … The little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for white ...

Silence

Wendy Steiner, 1 June 1989

Real Presences 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 236 pp., £12.99, May 1989, 0 571 14071 8
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... of understanding and of judgment ... are invested in the overnight.’ After all, who would set Toni Morrison next to Paul Celan? And lest this reference to black women writers of the Eighties appear a random example, we might look at Steiner’s musings on the relation between gender and art. He considers the act of aesthetic creativity an imitation ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... decorated with (trademarked) Levine cartoons of Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison or John Updike (gender and ethnic propriety are carefully observed). What is most dispiriting about these Barnes and Noble stores is the expansive blandness of their produce, and the prominence given bestsellers and non-books ...

White Man’s Heaven

Michael Wood, 7 February 1991

Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin 
by James Campbell.
Faber, 306 pp., £14.99, January 1991, 0 571 15391 7
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James Baldwin: Artist on Fire 
by W.J. Weatherby.
Joseph, 412 pp., £17.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3403 6
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... ground or a place of poise: it is no man’s land, and it is a place that black women writers like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou seem to have understood better than anyone. They were at Baldwin’s funeral in New York when the white world had forgotten him and black militants were only just beginning to remember who he was. ‘Perhaps ...

Spells of Levitation

Lorna Sage: Deborah Eisenberg, 3 September 1998

All around Atlantis 
by Deborah Eisenberg.
Granta, 232 pp., £8.99, March 1998, 1 86207 161 6
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... and now with Asian Americans. In the marvellous lectures collected in Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison talks about the way in which black characters in classic American writing have had to carry the burden of the author’s symbolism. How much more galling, when you are a writer yourself, being made to tote that bale in some cultural-historical ...

Mendacious Flowers

Martin Jay: Clinton Baiting, 29 July 1999

All too Human: A Political Education 
by George Stephanopoulos.
Hutchinson, 456 pp., £17.99, March 1999, 0 09 180063 3
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No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Verso, 122 pp., £12, May 1999, 1 85984 736 6
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... which was most clearly manifested during Monicagate. Hitchens ridicules the claim made by Toni Morrison and endorsed by Arthur Miller that because Clinton came from a broken home and had an alcoholic mother, he suffered from the same prejudices as those directed at blacks, and thus in some sense is ‘our first black President’. He knows that ...

Destined to Disappear

Susan Pedersen: ‘Race Studies’, 20 October 2016

White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations 
by Robert Vitalis.
Cornell, 272 pp., $29.95, November 2015, 978 0 8014 5397 7
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... for the now proscribed term ‘race’, more simply lost interest in the issue. Vitalis, quoting Toni Morrison, calls this turn away from race ‘the graceful, even generous, liberal gesture’, and not with admiration. Its effects were profound. With race no longer a master category, American race relations no longer figured as part of a global ...

Inside the Barrel

Brent Hayes Edwards: The French Slave Trade, 10 September 2009

Memoires des esclavages: la fondation d’un centre national pour la memoire des esclavages et de leurs abolitions 
by Edouard Glissant.
Gallimard, 192 pp., €14.90, May 2007, 978 2 07 078554 4
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The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade 
by Christopher Miller.
Duke, 571 pp., £20.99, March 2008, 978 0 8223 4151 2
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... or the debates it has brought about in Britain or the United States; it’s hard, too, to imagine Toni Morrison or Caryl Phillips being asked to take charge of such matters. As Christopher Miller points out in The French Atlantic Triangle, in France ‘literature was one of the most important battlegrounds for the debate on slavery.’ But in spite of ...

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