Books

Book of Toni Morrison quotations coming out in December

The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom will draw from her whole body of work, including celebrated novels such as Beloved and Song of Solomon.
In this Sept. 21, 2012, file photo, U.S. novelist Toni Morrison applauds as she attends the America Festival at the U.S. embassy, in Paris. (Thibault Camus/Associated Press)

A book of Toni Morrison quotations is coming out in December.

The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom will draw from her whole body of work, including celebrated novels such as Beloved and Song of Solomon.

The foreword is by Zadie Smith, adapted from a tribute she wrote soon after the Nobel laureate died in August 2019 at age 88.

A publisher's note describes the book as a distillation of her major themes, including "transcendence through imagination; the self and its discontents; the vicissitudes of love; the whirligig of memory; the singular power of women; the original American sin of slavery; the bankruptcy of racial oppression; the complex humanity; and art of black people."

The 128-page compilation was put together by Erroll McDonald, executive editor and vice president of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

He told the Associated Press on Monday, Oct. 7 that he thought of the book as a response to the "tremendous adulation" that Morrison received after her death.

He intends The Measure of Our Lives to serve as an introduction for new readers and an "ideal keepsake" for longtime admirers.

The book's title comes from one of Morrison's most famous sayings, about words themselves: "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."

The Nobel Prize-winning American author is being celebrated around the world following her death on August 5th, age 88. She spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in 2012. 52:52

Morrison was the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, awarded in 1993. The Swedish academy hailed her use of language and her "visionary force."

Her novel Beloved, in which a mother makes a tragic choice to murder her baby to save the girl from slavery, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.

Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eyein 1970 at the age of 39. The book told the story of a young girl, Pecola Breedlove, who is bullied for being black and prays for blond hair and blue eyes.

Morrison went on to have a long and acclaimed career in letters, publishing novels like Song of Solomon, Jazz, Sula, Paradise and A Mercy and essay collections like The Source of Self-Regardas well as plays and an opera.

Her work explored the dynamic between society and the individual from a black American perspective, bringing to light the cruel legacy of slavery. Morrison was praised for her incisive intellect, incomparable prose and for blazing a path for other black writers and thinkers.

With files from CBC Books.

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