The New York Times
CliffsNotes Song Of Solomonby Durthy A. Washington, Cliffs Notes
Toni Morrison (b.1931) is perhaps the most celebrated contemporary American novelist. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, Morrison powerfully evokes in her fiction the legacies of displacement and slavery that have been bequeathed to the African-American community. Morrison was born in Ohio, educated at Howard University and Cornell University, and is now… See more details below
Toni Morrison (b.1931) is perhaps the most celebrated contemporary American novelist. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, Morrison powerfully evokes in her fiction the legacies of displacement and slavery that have been bequeathed to the African-American community. Morrison was born in Ohio, educated at Howard University and Cornell University, and is now a member of the faculty of Princeton University. Her most widely read novel is perhaps Beloved (1987), which won the Pulitzer Prize and was recently adapted for film. Song of Solomon (1977), however, is perhaps the most lyrical of her novels, following Milkman Dead as he struggles to understand his family history and the ways in which that history has both been damaged by and transcended the horror of slavery. All of Morrison's fiction, from her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), to last year's Paradise (1998), explores both the need for and the impossibility of real community and the bonds that both unite and divide African-American women. Morrison has also published a volume of critical work entitled Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.
The New York Times
When the novel opens, Milkman is clearly a man with little or no concern for others. Like his father, he is driven only by his immediate sensual needs; he is spoiled and self-centered and pursues money and sexual gratification at all costs. The novel centers around his search for a lost bag of gold that was allegedly taken from a man involved in his grandfather's murder and then abandoned by his Aunt Pilate. The search for gold takes Milkman and his friend Guitar, a young black militant, to Shalimar, a town named for his great-grandfather Solomon, who according to local legend escaped slavery by taking flight back to Africa on the wind. On his journey, under the influence of his Aunt Pilate, a strong, fearless, natural woman whose values are the opposite of Milkman's father's, Milkman begins to come to terms with his family history, his role as a man, and the possibilities of his life apart from a cycle of physical lust and satisfaction.
In telling the story of Milkman's quest to discover the hidden history of the Deads, Morrison expertly weaves together elements of myth, magic, and folklore. She grapples with fundamental issues of class and race, ancestry and identity, while never losing sight of Milkman's compelling story. The language in Song of Solomon, Morrison's only novel with a male protagonist, is earthy and poetic, the characters eccentric, and the detail vivid and convincing. The result is a novel that is at once emotionally intense, provocative, and inspiring in its description of how one man rediscovered the latent power within him.
Song of Solomon is considered to be Toni Morrison's masterpiece and is in the top echelon of literary works produced by any American writer. It is also her breakthrough novel in both critical and commercial success: It was the first African American novel since Native Son to be a main selection of the Book of the Month club and it won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award among others. The book received a second life, and best-seller status, twenty years after its initial publication when talk show host Oprah Winfrey announced it as a selection for her on-air book club.
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