Finally, another human on this planet that does not think that Toni Morrison is the greatest writer alive. B.R. Myers writes of Morrison’s new novel A Mercy that:
How shallow and vague that is; how glibly it breezes through the life of the mind. A Mercy is eked out with a few set pieces, but even they rush us through; the book never seems to settle into narrative “real time.”
For all its cheerlessness, the novel is anything but grittily realistic. Some scenes, such as one in which a character gets out of her bath “aslide with wintergreen,” evince an effort to make even these miserable lives picturesque. But Morrison’s failure to evoke the period is more the fault of her all-too-contemporary prose style: “1682 and Virginia was still a mess.” No one likes an archaizer, apart from a million Cormac McCarthy fans, but a novelist writing of the 17th century should at least avoid language that is jarringly inconsistent or out of place. Reminiscing, the slaves vacillate between would-be-poetic English and an equally improbable sort of Hollywood Injun: “Shadows of men sat on barrels, then stood. They said they were told to break we in.” Anachronisms abound, from New Age lingo like “She gives off a bad feeling” to the dialect of the postbellum South: “her borning young.” We are even told that our Anglo-Dutch trader had “gone head to head with rich gentry.” What, and not drunk their milk shake?
For the one required class on campus Freshman year we were required to read Beloved which I found to be a self-indulgent and arrogant piece of literary crap. I have never been able to understand why Toni Morrison gets the praise that she does for her novels while other American writers simply get overshadowed.