Yesterday, I was told that Toni Morrison would be giving a reading here at the ENS the next day. I had seen no signs, had heard nothing. So today I went, a little skeptical, but indeed she was here—standing room only. I wasn’t able to stay for Q&A, which is often the best part of a reading. There were four texts, two of which were from her new novel. Each one was read first in French (by another person, whose name I didn’t catch), and then in the original by Toni Morrison herself. The contrast was striking. The French reader gave the texts a theatricality that Morrison avoided. I want almost to say that they seemed, in French, melodramatic. Certainly Morrison’s writing is sensual and emotionally charged enough that it runs this risk. In the past, I have heard poets read their own work, and have found that I often prefer another person’s vocalization of a poem to the author’s. Not in this case.
I’m not especially familiar with Morrison’s work (I read Beloved in highschool). I left the auditorium thinking that I should, at least, read Jazz.