Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be.this one gets 4 please don t hit me again, sula stars.and honestly, for than half of it, it was leaning towards 5 stars, and not just because of stockholm syndrome.i have never read toni morrison before her name was at the top of my authors i have never read, much to my great personal shame list along with tolstoy, balzac, alice munro, etc and before this book, my impression of her was that she was a very rigidly literary american author who wrote important books about important themes that were technically masterful, but took themselves very seriously and were probably not much fun to read.well.that is not the case with this one, at least.right from the get go, i was smitten it was all the things i loved it was Winesburg, Ohio, it was grit lit, it was smalltown gossip and neighborly scrutiny, it was the ingenuity of the disenfranchised, it was the sun rising like a hot white bitch, and best of all, it was FUN but, like, my kind of fun, where people get set on fire and playtime ends in a body count this is v.c andrews without the incest and now i understand why this book kept injuring me Sula does NOT play nice it is a rough book full of rough things too potent to be contained between the covers of the book itself or maybe the book was just trying to get my attention because it knew i would like it so much either way, it was worth the price of a few battle scars marking me like sula herself, whose birthmark gives her face a broken excitement to me, this book was absolute perfection when it was focused on the childhood friendship of sula and nel, but it lost something once they grew up which is a shame, because the childhood parts were SO GOOD she writes the intensity of nel and sula s intertwining perfectly They never quarreled, those two, the way some girlfriends did over boys, or competed against each other for them In those days, a compliment to one was a compliment to the other, and cruelty to one was a challenge to the other.and she captures that transition from girlhood to half understood sexuality wonderfully It was in that summer, the summer of their twelfth year, the summer of the beautiful black boys, that they became skittish, frightened and bold all at the same time.although i do have to say, her overreliance on the word beautiful as a descriptor for men and boys is grating eeeevery man is beautiful, which is statistically improbable, and it s also lazy wordsmithing in someone who has proven herself to be much better than that but back to the sexxy bits, because you know i m not into romance or erotica unless it involves all the hilarious ways a human can copulate with a monster or a tater tot or something like that but human on human gyrations tend to leave me cold however, while it doesn t involve actual intercourse, her descriptions of sula and nel at twelve, wishbone thin and easy assed, walking to the ice cream store through the gauntlet of men who are themselves passing the time sitting on stoops watching women walk by, through this valley of eyes chilled by the wind and heated by the embarrassment of appraising stares, knowing and not knowing their effect, delighted and ashamed all at once, and despite the fact that it s totally gross to call a situation in which men in their twenties up through to elderly gentlemen are ogling twelve year old girls hot, still, there s something here that worked on me the way no fifty shades of story of o has, and it comes from the perspective of the girls themselves, and the mysteries of what they have yet to experience It was not really Edna Finch s ice cream that made them brave the stretch of those panther eyes Years later their own eyes would glaze as they cupped their chins in remembrance of the inchworm smiles, the squatting haunches, the track rail legs straddling broken chairs The cream colored trousers marking with a mere seam the place where the mystery curled Those smooth vanilla crotches invited them those lemon yellow gabardines beckoned to them They moved toward the ice cream parlor like tightrope walkers, as thrilled by the possibility of a slip as by the maintenance of tension and balance The least sideways glance, the merest toe stub, could pitch them into those creamy haunches spread wide with welcome Somewhere beneath all of that daintiness, chambered in all that neatness, lay the thing that clotted their dreams.so you see why i m frustrated by her repetition of beautiful when she can pull off such superior writing even her descriptions of nature become erotic, although this passage has of that b word gumming up the works Then summer came A summer limp with the weight of blossomed things Heavy sunflowers weeping over fences iris curling and browning at the edges far away from their purple hearts ears of corn letting their auburn hair wind down to their stalks And the boys The beautiful, beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their shining wet backs Even their footsteps left a smell of smoke behind.very saucy stuff, that so, yeah i really loved this book i loved the final third less than the beginning, because i didn t really understand what i was meant to be getting out of the story s turn, but it was still excellent writing, and it closed very nicely, so it s an easy four stars, and immunity granted for all injuries sustained okay, i finished the book if it lets me live long enough, i will review it soon IMPORTANT UPDATE A SECOND ASSAULT UPON MY PERSON BY THIS BOOK okay, so here s something weird i started this book yesterday, and read several chapters just before bed when i woke up, i had this gigantic bruise on my eyelid i have no memory of any trauma to my eye and i am eye attack phobic, so i d remember and i wear my glasses all day, which protects me from such trauma the only way this could have happened would have been when my glasses were off, while i was asleep when my glasses were off, while i was asleep, WITH THIS BOOK NEXT TO ME IN BED.seriously, sula what s your beef with me although i gotta say, i like how it makes me look like i m wearing fancy new wave eyeshadow the final book in my quarterly literary fiction box from pagehabit sula.here s the story with me and sula long ago, when i was working at barnes and noble and we hosted the new yorker festival every year, i was in the back room on the fourth floor, gathering books to restock the festival displays while i was grabbing books from a shelf far above my head with my monkey arms, a hardcover copy of sula slipped from the stack and its very solid lower spine corner hit me right in the center of my skull with all the force of gravity and book malice behind it naturally, i yelled FUCK YOU, SULA, and naturally i vowed never to read that book, ever but then this box thing happened, and now i have to read it, regardless of the abuse i have suffered at its hands fortunately, this is a paperback, and it is not as tough as its momma i remain vigilant i could still get papercuts, after all come to my blog all these new editions of morrison s books have the same author photo on the back and it s been causing problems check it out despite that weird author hand placement thing, i ve been kinda seriously obsessing over all these pictures of morrison s huge lion s head, piercing eyes, and silver dreads and as i plow through her body of work i stare at her face for some external indication of all the furious demented psychotic shit she flings at us by all appearances she s a lovely woman i just don t get it it s gotten to the point where i ve gotta stick duct tape over the author photo so that everytime i read some crazyass shit and my OCD flares up, i m unable to flip to the back cover and snicker mumble to a photograph and an empty room again with the hands. Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.In the hills above the valley town of Medallion, Ohio is a small neighborhood known as the Bottom where black residents form a tight knit community They are united in their understanding of discrimination and their experience with racial oppression The Bottom is home to Nel Wright and Sula Peace, two girls whose friendship is solidified by the burden of a horrendous secret Once grown, they remain guardians of that secret, but an act of betrayal threatens to terminate their friendship forever White people lived on the rich valley floor of that little river town in Ohio, and the blacks populated the hills above it, taking small consolation in the fact that every day they could literally look down on the white folks. Though Sula posits to be the story of two women, Nel and Sula don t take center stage until roughly fifty pages into the book Prior to their time in the limelight, the book reads like a collection of character studies, which provides backstory of family history that lays the foundation for the type of drastically different women Nel and Sula each grow up to be Opulent language is regularly employed to describe the setting and character attributes Then summer came A summer limp with the weight of blossomed things Heavy sunflowers weeping over fences, iris curling and browning at the edges far away from their purple hearts ears of corn letting their auburn hair wind down their stalks And the boys The beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their shining wet backs. Her voice trailed, dipped and bowed she gave a chord of the simplest words Nobody, but nobody, could say hey sugar like Hannah When he heard it, the man tipped his hat down a little over his eyes, hoisted his trousers and thought about the hollow place at the base of her throat. Young Nel is raised in an environment that stifles the glowing qualities of her personality, yet she aspires to be wonderful Only with Sula did that quality have free reign, but their friendship was so close, they themselves had difficulty distinguishing one s thoughts from the other s.As a grown woman, Nel is an accepted figure in the community, content with the status quo and the confines of a life as mother and wife Young Sula, by stark contrast, enjoys the neatness of Nel s parents house and finds it a comforting opposite to the dirty, cluttered conditions of her own home where her mother known around town for being loose with men adheres to a lax method of parenting As an adult, Sula challenges the status quo with her anarchistic ways, free of the rules for women established by men, making Sula first and foremost a study of an outlaw woman disrupting the harmony of a unified neighborhood and tragically injuring a lifelong friendship They said that Sula slept with white men it may not have been true, but it certainly could have been She was obviously capable of it In any case, all minds were closed to her when that word was passed around. Towards the end of the book, the story shifts without preamble from a third person to a first person narrative for just a few pages It s likely this was a strategic move, enacted by the author to emphasize a character s deep sense of betrayal, but the sudden and unexpected shift was initially jarring Once oriented, the scene does allow for a intimate experience of betrayal as told through the eyes of a character via a first person narrative Coming full circle, the book concludes nicely by deferring to the characters introduced in its opening pages With only limited time devoted to its two leading characters, Sula is a tragic portrait of a woman breaking societal rules and suffering the grievous consequences of her actions My deepest gratitude to Quarterly.co for providing a free Literary Box with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.Quarterly.co s Literary Box comes with bookish goodies, a feature book, and two additional books selected by the author of the feature book What makes the Literary Box special are the notes written by the author of the feature book These notes give readers unique insights into the book that only the author would know. Then summer came A summer limp with the weight of blossoming things Heavy sunflowers weeping over fences iris curling and browning at the edges far away from their purple hearts ears of corn letting their auburn hair wind down to their stalks And the boys The beautiful, beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their shining wet backs Even their footsteps left a smell of smoke behind Toni Morrison, SulaThis is a captivating book about the friendship between two girls Sula and Nel with very different personalities Despite the fact that Sula is the titular character, we re not introduced to her until halfway through the book Before that we have the opportunity to discover the poor black community where most of the action will take place, and think about PTSD in the lives of black American soldiers, while waiting for the central story In particular, the description of Bottom and how it affects the people who live there sets the stage What was taken by outsiders to be slackness, slovenliness or even generosity was in fact a full recognition of the legitimacy of forces other than good ones They did not believe doctors could heal for them, none ever had done so They did not believe death was accidental life might be, but death was deliberate They did not believe Nature was ever askew only inconvenient Plague and drought were as natural as springtime If milk could curdle, God knows robins could fall The purpose of evil was to survive it and they determined without ever knowing they had made up their minds to do it to survive floods, white people, tuberculosis, famine and ignorance They knew anger well but not despair, and they didn t stone sinners for the same reason they didn t commit suicide it was beneath them Because I m reading Morrison s books in chronological order, and The Bluest Eye was read not too long ago, I was maybe sensitive to the connections and similarities between the two books In this book, as in The Bluest Eye, the theme of the two Americas emerges, in particular on the theme of parental love What does love mean when you are a single black mother of three children, abandoned by your husband and living in a poor, black community I kept going back to read the passage where Hannah is asking her mother, Eva, whether she had ever loved her, and Eva replied, You settin here with your healthy ass self and ax me did I love you Them big old eyes in your head would a been two holes full of maggots if I hadn t And also Play Wasn t nobody playin in 1895 Just cause you got it good now you think it was always this good This sentiment was so reminiscent of The Bluest Eye where the black mother showed her love to her children in somewhat gruff ways which weren t even recognized as love until those children were older In a sense I feel they were too busy to focus on love as most of us envision it, focusing all their attention on survival instead I m still quite conflicted about Sula, although my opinion of her has softened over the years as I myself have gained empathy through age and personal experiences In many ways I sympathize with her she is smart, a rebel of sorts, doesn t like traditional expectations of women, and is very unconventional She tries to forge her own life, even gaining the courage to leave Bottom But something is missing in her and Morrison tells us that Sula had no center, no speck around which to grow Despite this Morrison is not judgmental in how she portrays her, and it led me to empathizing with her role as an outsider, living in a small community with a small town mentality In a way, her strangeness, her naivete, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the relentlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous Although Morrison focuses mainly on the lives of black girls and women in her writing, she also spares a thought to black men She looks at black masculinity, particularly in the kind of environment that constrains the lives and movement of black people, and what that manifests as So it was rage, rage and a determination to take on a man s role anyhow that made him press Nel about settling down He needed some of his appetites filled, some posture of adulthood recognized, but mostly he wanted someone to care about his hurt, to care very deeply Deep enough to hold him, deep enough to rock him, deep enough to ask, How you feel You all right Want some coffee And if he were to be a man, that someone could no longer be his mother He chose the girl who had always been kind, who had never seemed hell bent to marry, who made the whole venture seem like his idea, his conquest In the end, I really enjoyed this book than I did a decade ago when I first read it And I m awed by how much Morrison can pack into a novella of this size. This Rich And Moving Novel Traces The Lives Of Two Black Heroines From Their Close Knit Childhood In A Small Ohio Town, Through Their Sharply Divergent Paths Of Womanhood, To Their Ultimate Confrontation And ReconciliationNel Wright Has Chosen To Stay In The Place Where She Was Born, To Marry, Raise A Family, And Become A Pillar Of The Black Community Sula Peace Has Rejected The Life Nel Has Embraced, Escaping To College, And Submerging Herself In City Life When She Returns To Her Roots, It Is As A Rebel And A Wanton Seductress Eventually, Both Women Must Face The Consequences Of Their Choices Together, They Create An Unforgettable Portrait Of What It Means And Costs To Be A Black Woman In America This unerring writer has been the only one to get all 5 star reviews from me so far for Beloved, The Bluest Eye, this all of her books have that same wondrous quality What can be said about our most cherished writer that hasn t already been said It is really hard to come up with a favorite novel Beloved for its twinges of Goth Eye for its incessant play with tenderness and cruelty Or this, for its inspiring mix of grief from the ultraheavy psychological effects of Eye the magnificent deus ex machina at the end, a la Beloved Better than Faulkner, the scenes we are shown here vary in tone Morrison s narrator has certain privileges but also decides what not to show us Sula involves the strong relationship between two women, how it can possibly transcend the love for family, the love for love It is something so completely foreign to me, so delicious, as bizarre, as, say Cindi Lauper s anthem Girls Just Wanna Have Fun What is it that men miss out on After Sula I am now suddenly utterly aware that there are certain circles circular perhaps a fitting definition for the manner in which the writer displays her never normal narrative which I am barred from entering the feeling of being shown only glimpses of something I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND is that mystical magical engine which keeps my nose perpetually in novels. This is the first time I ve ever struggled to review a book I ve read Perhaps this relentless English rain is getting to me and addling my brain Not that Sula was in any way bad Just that I find my response to it is as mysterious as the book itself I could say it s been a while since I read Toni Morrison and my first response was excitement at the reminder of how stunningly she can write a sentence Grass stood blade by blade, shocked into separateness by an ice that held for days I could say it s about two girls who strike up a poignant intimacy as children and how one becomes a compromised adult and the other becomes the quintessential outsider until she s resented and feared by her entire neighbourhood, a neighbourhood that seems to exist on a barren island, cut off from the wider world of opportunity and hope everyone s hopes are centred on the rumoured construction of a tunnel and a bridge to the neighbouring town And how it does a moving job of showing how all the odds are stacked against a black woman living in the USA in the first half of the 20th century because each had discovered years before they were neither white nor male and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden them they set about something else to be I could say it s a strange mix of poetic myth and grubby realism with perhaps an absence of narrative drive, of compelling storytelling Despite the beauty of its language and its moving chronicling of appalling social injustice the staggering childish malevolence of their employers In fact, I think that s what I ll say and leave it at that except to conclude that in this novel all Morrison s immense gifts as a writer are on display, except her genius of weaving them all together into riveting storytelling The ending though is fabulous 3.5 stars The sun s just come out 349 Sula, Toni MorrisonSula is a 1973 novel by Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison, her second to be published after The Bluest Eye 2012 1387 226 9649204806 20 Hell ain t things lasting forever Hell is change.It is time for change slowly, painfully, but inexorably the spirit of the age sheds old rags and dons a new garb The mutes are beginning to discover a voice that had been trapped in their windpipes eyes see things that they had hitherto only watched and hearts ache with a new throb of hope mixed with fear of which no one can tell which is greater From this sense of foreboding out comes Sula.The excluded community confined up in the hills outside a small Ohio town is made, through centuries of social conditioning, to see themselves as different and separate from the white people They know who they are and they also know they are not the same as the people who live in the town down the hills They are different, in every imaginable way You could see that They are scandalised when Sula, one of their own, embarks on a path that s opening up out there, a path of education and mobility, of employment and relocation, of mingling with the white folks as their human equal, if not racial, social or political equal Gods be good, the black people are offered to live their lives like the white folksIt was a fine cry loud and long but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow When she returns home after a long absence Sula is transformed into an unintelligible mass of thoughts and actions her people find difficult to square It s like a white girl in black skin Or so people think Unpardonable Outrageous Her community is devastated nothing is sacrilegious than dressing like white people, speaking like them, behaving like them, being like them And what s , Sula has taken a white man for a lover Sula, we re not the same. Ah, what an incredible fact of human psychology that even if you do not lose a sense of identity and self respect, you eventually come to accept the role to which your oppressor designates you.Sula becomes a pariah in her own community, uncomprehending and incomprehensible The ominous signs that lend her a preternatural aura testify to something strange People see those signs in retrospect, from her birth to childhood, from her growing up as a daughter of a woman abandoned by her husband, from the way she looked at them when she was a child, the way she walked and sat, ate and gestured Sula, they reach on a terrifying conclusion, is not a young black girl but a phantom implanted from a world of shadows view spoiler This is as close as the author would get to magic realism in this novel hide spoiler Toni Morrison s novels allusive, poetic, with plots that are carefully, artfully constructed take work You can t read them casually But they also offer up rich rewards to those with patience Sula, her second novel published in 1973 , tells the story of two girls who grow up in the 1920s in a Black hillside community called the Bottom in the small town of Medallion, Ohio.Nel Wright, as her name implies, does everything right, including get married to a nice Black man and raise children Sula Peace, who grew up with a non traditional household overseen by an eccentric, one legged grandmother, is a rebel with a slightly demonic streak Later she takes on an attitude towards men that causes the town to shun her.As children, the two girls take part in something that s shrouded in secrecy and shame Only in the novel s final pages will the truth emerge about that incident.As with Beloved and Song Of Solomon, the two other Morrison novels I ve read, the language is dense and poetic This is prose that should be read aloud, savoured In fact, I reread a couple of passages just to admire them and see how they felt in my mouth and sounded to my ears.This might also explain why Morrison s novels don t adapt well to the big or little screen They re gorgeously written, but they don t rely much on plot Morrison, in her omniscient third person POV, gets into many characters heads with one exception, in which we re given a long, aria like monologue by Nel , but that doesn t have much momentum or drive.Did I like this novel Yes I really liked the way it was structured, orienting us at the beginning of each chapter with a year, but often taking its time to tell us who or what we were going to read about.I wish the girls friendship had been illustrated a bit at the beginning We re mostly told that they had this great friendship I wanted to see it evolve naturally But the scenes Morrison does provide including a sequence in which the girls are being assessed by the town s men, and one in which they re being accosted by white boys boy does Sula ever have a powerful way to escape this situation are stunning They have to be, because Morrison refers to them later.The theme of how women judge each other over sex and men is communicated vividly And the uneasy social and geographical relationship between Blacks and whites is handled subtly.It s a novel that gains in power as it progresses Incidents have to accrue time has to pass words have to be spoken and people have to die before the full weight of the story is felt.But Morrison delivers, and does so with admirable economy A lesser writer would have padded out the story, made us love these characters sentimentally, but I appreciated her way of letting the reader fill in the gaps One exception I wanted , even a sentence or two, about Nel s children I look forward to reading The Bluest Eye and Tar Baby a misfit character with that name is referenced in this book next.But I know I ll need an extended, uninterrupted period of time to read and appreciate them.
The Bluest Eye ,
- 192 pages
- Toni Morrison
- 02 December 2017 Toni Morrison