Morrison's new novel speaks of 'Love'

Oct. 24, 2003 11:22 a.m.

Toni Morrison says there are two ripe features that aggrandize humans: love and language. So it is no wonder that her eighth novel, "Love," speaks to the human condition in search of its own voice.

"I was always interested in efforts people make to thrive, to survive and to relate to one another," Morrison said in an interview, after first describing her new novel as an exploration of African-American culture from the 1940s to the 1990s -- before, during and after the civil rights movement. "Even though I describe all of this as the paramount thing, it isn't. That is the background story. The people, the characters, are consequences of other people's actions as well as their own history."

Canvassing the panorama of emotions summoned by love is a trait found throughout Morrison's body of work -- from spiritual love in "Beloved" to romantic love in "Jazz." The new novel, due out on Oct. 28, is the story of the women bound to Bill Cosey, a rich owner of a segregated black resort in Florida who is dead as the book unfolds.

During the four years it took her to craft this story, Morrison did not always refer to it as "Love." In the end, she agreed with her publisher on the title, as love is "a mediating factor" in the book. It is "what eludes or drives or confuses or even destroys and, sometimes, enables the characters," she said. "Equally important, it is indeed the most empty, clichid word in the language besides 'nice.' At the same time, it is the most powerful of human emotions and one of the few things that distinguishes us from other kinds of life on earth -- the ability to love something or even search for love."

Morrison, who who will read from "Love" at Richardson Auditorium 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4, called it "a delicious feeling" to have received recently her bound copies of the published work. Yet the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize winning author said she does not write for acclaim. "I like it when they like it, but I have to keep on," she said, noting she has started her next novel. "It's something to comfort me."

Morrison's novels have both comforted and jarred millions of readers worldwide, just as she has had a transforming effect on Princeton's students, faculty and staff members.

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Contact: Eric Quinones (609) 258-3601


Toni Morrison Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. (No other use is authorized.)