Feathered Wombs

Zoë Heller

  • Paradise by Toni Morrison
    Chatto, 300 pp, £16.99, April 1998, ISBN 0 7011 6041 1

Something amazing has happened to Toni Morrison’s reputation in the United States. Over the last ten years, since the publication of Beloved, her fifth novel, she has been catapulted from the teeming ranks of well-known, well-respected fiction writers, to the thin-aired plane reserved for America’s deities and seers. Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 had something to do with this of course, but Morrison’s status in American culture goes beyond, and is certainly not reducible to, the approbation of the Swedes. She appears on the cover of the New York Review of Books and Time magazine. She is required reading in American schools and colleges, and very probably the subject of more doctoral dissertations than any other contemporary American writer. She is Oprah Winfrey’s Favourite Author. (In gratitude for which honour, she has, by the way, made several Papal appearances on Oprah’s Book Club, delivering gnomic verities about Literature and Life to a slightly confounded, but droolingly reverent studio audience.) In the great halls of the New York Public Library, an extract from her Nobel Prize acceptance speech has been graven on the stone wall.

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