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Song of Solomon (1977)

by Toni Morrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,279105622 (4.03)452
Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family's origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.… (more)
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» See also 452 mentions

English (96)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (104)
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
Plot-driven, character-driven, held by history and underlain by myth, with a full command of the possibilities of the written from - at its best, as here, a novel is all these things in creative tension. This is a masterwork. It's been a long time since I have been able to say say that about any novel I've read, particularly any novel written in the last fifty years. ( )
  CSRodgers | Aug 5, 2021 |
Song of Solomon is about the past, present, and future of an extended family whose ancestors were slaves. The character names were brilliant. The novel has many layers of meaning and contexts in which it might be appreciated, and the names are just the beginning to unraveling them. One of my favorites. A bold coming of age story threaded with a complex understanding of black culture. Milkman's birth is signified by a man's vain attempt to fly, symbolizing Milkman's continued efforts to fly throughout the rest of the novel. Worth the read, requires work to understand. ( )
  FatimaCastelao | Jul 22, 2021 |
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (2004)
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
Date approximate ( )
  fmc712 | Feb 18, 2021 |
Morrison's third novel is a little bit more ambitious than the first two in the amount of time and space it covers; it's also unlike the first two in using a male central character — a choice prompted by the recent death of the author's father — although, as you would expect, it's still full of strong female characters.

But in other ways we are very much still in the world of the earlier novels. The core setting for at least the first part is the black community of a small industrial town on the Great Lakes around 1940; the story is framed by two families, one that defines itself by "respectability" and its social and economic success compared to other families in the black community and the other that consists of three generations of strong, independent women without men, who seem to care nothing for other people's rules and conventions.

At the centre of the story is Milkman. He's officially called Macon Dead, like his father and grandfather — who originally got the name when a drunken official registering freed slaves filled in a form in the wrong order — but universally known by the nickname that reflects his mother's attempt to delay his growing up as long as possible. We follow his progress from being the spoilt son of a successful local businessman to a kind of self-realisation through the perils and humiliations of a journey back into his family's past in the South. With plenty of the kind of grotesque, paradoxical and borderline magic-realist elements you would expect in a Morrison novel, he learns that you can't be a fully-developed human being until you understand some important things about who you are and where you come from and what it means to love and be loved.

Reading this directly after the first two, it felt a little bit drier, more detached in its style: there is a lot of suffering and injustice, some brutal murders and even more abrupt and tragic pieces of self-destruction, but they are just that little bit further away from us as readers than they were in Sula and The bluest eye. It's hard to say whether that makes it more or less effective as a novel, though: it's simply a different approach. ( )
1 vote thorold | Feb 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Morrison, Toniprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cavagnoli, Francasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Criado, CarmenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edlund, Mårtensecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guiloineau, JeanTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaplan, MarthaAuthor Photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praesent, AngelaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rué, SylvianeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thigpen, LynneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhagen, PietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The fathers may soar / And the children may know their names
Dedication
Daddy
First words
The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent promised to fly from Mercy to the other side of Lake Superior at three o'clock.
Quotations
He soaped and rubbed her until her skin squeaked and glistened like onyx. She put salve on his face. He washed her hair. She sprinkled talcum on his feet. He straddled her behind and massaged her back. She put witch hazel on his swollen neck. He made up the bed. She gave him gumbo to eat. He washed the dishes. She washed his clothes and hung them out to dry. He scoured her tub. She ironed his shirt and pants. He gave her fifty dollars. She kissed his mouth. He touched her face. She said please come back. He said I’ll see you tonight.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family's origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.

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