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Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon…

Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (Bloom's Modern Critical… (2009)

by Harold Bloom

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Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretation) (New Edition) edited by Harold Blood (2009, 209 pages, read Apr 13 - May 12)

This collection of nine essays was worth the time and effort, and there was some effort. [Song of Solomon] is a puzzling and complicated book full of a variety of ideas. Published in 1977, it reflects its time where rich, complicated and quickly evolving ideas were being thrown around by the black intellectual community about black history, and race relations and the various consequences of being black in America. What these essays did for me was to bring out of this some of the main themes (which aren’t all that clear) and give me some sense of the cacophony of ideas within. They also added a lot of detailed info I would never have picked up on. This kind of stuff brings out more of the book and makes it richer. My one complaint with these essays is that none of them address Guitar, one of the key characters, in much depth. So, of course, it’s Guitar that I now think most about.

Since reading this I have read Morrison’s first two books, [The Bluest Eye] and [Sula]. Both are very good, with [Sula] something more than simply very good. I’m happy with my impression of the [The Bluest Eye], and I’ll leave it there, at least for now. But [Sula] has left me wondering. I’m hoping to read some essays like these on Sula.

Below is a list of the essays with (hopefully) brief comments, just enough to give sense of the books content.

Harold Blood - Introduction
Bloom has a great point near the end here. Morrison has often and clearly denied any influence in her writing by William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf, two writers she studied closely in graduate school is often compared with, especially Faulkner. It’s a weird claim of hers. Anyway, Bloom’s point is that a novelist cannot chose their own predecessors.

Trudier Harris - Song of Solomon
Makes the curious observation that Milkman, the hero of [Song of Solomon] (or, as she says, the anti-classical hero), leaves behind him a trail of trampled women who propped him up along his journey. It’s a curious aspect of the book, and very obvious once it’s pointed out. But what is Morrison saying by doing this?

Patrick Bryce Bjork - Song of Solomon: Reality and Mythos Within the Community
Highlights the fairytale imagery throughout [Song of Solomon], which may explain it’s surreal aspect. And brings in Roland Barthes ideas that on how myths simplify the story and lead it to meaning.

Brooks Bouson - Quiet as it’s kept: Shame, trauma, and Race in the novels of Toni Morrison
My notes say “Wordy”. Bouson sees Song of Solomon as primarily about black shame and about how this has resulted in a denial of black history and an embrace of “bourgeois (white-identified) pride”.

John N. Duvall - Song of Solomon, Narrative Identity, and the Faulknerian Intertext
My notes say “A very good chapter”, which is too bad because I don’t remember any of it. Duvall compares [Song of Solomon] to two Faulkner novels - [Absalom! Absalom!] and [Go Down Moses] (note: I have never read Faulkner).

Dana Medoro - Justice and Citizenship in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
On social justice, black history and philosophy of justice. Also includes an interesting comparison and contrast of Guitar and Pilate, two of the main characters.

Wes Barry - Tony Morrison’s Revisionary “Nature Writing”: Song of Solomon and the Blasted Pastoral
An interesting discussion on what nature writing is. The key point in this essay, on how a kind of mysticism towards nature differs for blacks verse others, didn’t make much sense to me.

Lorie Watkins Fulton - William Faulkner Reprised: Isolation in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
A very interesting comparison of Morrison to William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. Morrison seems to favor Faulkner over Woolf, at least in the somewhat complicated ideas discussed here.

Judy Pocock - “Through a glass darkly": typology in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
An analysis of the character names in the book, which is much more complicated and unclear than I expected. “Through a glass darkly" is line from First Corinthians, the name of one Milkman’s sisters. (line 13:12)

Judith Fletcher - Signifying Circe in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
Circe is a key side character in [Song of Solomon], and also a key character in [The Odyssey]. Fletcher argues she "signifies" and ruptures the Homeric tradition. ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Jul 23, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0791051935, Library Binding)

One man's search for his identity.

The title, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, part of Chelsea House Publishers’ Modern Critical Interpretations series, presents the most important 20th-century criticism on Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon through extracts of critical essays by well-known literary critics. This collection of criticism also features a short biography on Toni Morrison, a chronology of the author’s life, and an introductory essay written by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:52 -0400)

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