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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 ...


Marina Warner: Medea, 3 December 2015

... Pasolini’s film (1969), Fiona Shaw in Deborah Warner’s production (2001), and among writers, Toni Morrison, who slants the myth through her novel Beloved (1987), as does Marina Carr more directly in her play By the Bog of Cats (1998), which is set in a traveller community in Ireland. Rachel Cusk’s take on Euripides’ Medea, commissioned for the ...

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 ...

Dirty Little Secret

Fredric Jameson: The Programme Era, 22 November 2012

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 466 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 0 674 06209 2
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... universality of a literary modernism which has come in our time to stand for Literature itself (Toni Morrison becomes the exhibit here, whose Beloved McGurl ingeniously converts into a kind of schoolroom drama). But now the universalism of these multicultures is rather startlingly contrasted to a ‘lower-middle-class modernism’ (I would have ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr, 10 May 2001

I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... other in public – the focus of efforts to destroy them; perhaps it was with King in mind that Toni Morrison declared Clinton to be our first black President. Believing that a profane King can speak to contemporary black youth as a holy one cannot, Dyson devotes whole chapters to his hero’s sexual life and shows a great interest in the plagiarism ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... to his distancing of himself from his fellow blacks.’ This echoes a private communication by Toni Morrison to Rampersad, which the biographer reproduces at length; Morrison’s judgment on Ellison builds up to a damning charge: ‘One contrasts the largeness of Invisible Man with its broad canvas and its wide ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... for Clinton was about to become not just any white Negro but ‘our first black President’, as Toni Morrison has called him, with black Americans supplying ‘the dowry’ of transgression, punishment and forgiveness for sexual misbehaviour. (Andrew Johnson, the only other impeached President, was brought to the bar because he opposed the 14th ...

Loaded Dice

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Ta-Nehisi Coates, 3 December 2015

Between the World and Me 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Text, 152 pp., £10.99, September 2015, 978 1 925240 70 2
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... critic A.O. Scott said it was ‘essential, like water or air’; in a widely circulated blurb, Toni Morrison likened Coates to Baldwin and declared the book ‘required reading’; even Jay-Z tweeted to his millions of followers: ‘Please. read.’ For some time now, Coates has been writing in what he and the avid readers of his blog (whom he ...

Feminist Perplexities

Dinah Birch, 11 October 1990

Seductions: Studies in Reading and Culture 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 194 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 86068 943 3
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... of areas in which women can be heard speaking for themselves. She has written in celebration of Toni Morrison’s fiction before: here again, Morrison shows what a different perspective might look like: ‘Morrison begins by assuming quite simply that communities are women, just as ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... and groans, and Cootie’s muffled ‘Why?’ speak African-American volumes – the ones that Toni Morrison, among others, is striving to write. But the shortcomings of Ellington’s verbal narratives for My People and the Second Sacred Concert (1968) demonstrate that his instincts were sounder in 1928, and that bigger is not necessarily better. The ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman, 23 September 2010

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... main groups: ‘technomodernism’ (John Barth, Thomas Pynchon), ‘high cultural pluralism’ (Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros) and ‘lower-middle-class modernism’ (Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates), with Venn diagrams illustrating the overlap between these groups, and their polarisation by aesthetic sub-tendencies such as maximalism and ...

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