Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Op Ed: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

This book has been sucking the joy out of my love for reading, and I can no longer bear suffering for no reason

I tried.  After all, it was awarded "Best Novel of the Year." The first three pages, including the front and back covers, are overflowing with literary praise for the book and author.  It had to be good, right?

Unfortunately, I have yet to find contemporary, modern, and post modern fiction enjoyable.  I hate the F-word, I am offended by blasphemy, and I am not fond of vulgar and explicit imagery about the human anatomy and sexual behavior.  I do not need to be provoked by discomfort in order to think.  It is quite insulting, actually.

For the last two years, I have been reading through The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer, beginning with Don Quixote and working my way chronologically to the final novels ending in the modern era.  The last two books I have disliked immensely, for similar reasons, and Song of Solomon is joining them.

I cannot figure out why Bauer included Morrison's award-winning novel, unless she meant to demonstrate how literature has retreated from brilliant, complex, and engaging masterpieces to dull, shallow, boring nonsense using vulgar and repulsive language.

It took one week to get through one chapter of Song of Solomon, but I did not need to continue in order to decide that this story is horrid.  It is disappointing because my goal was to read every book on TWEM list.  In an effort to save myself from giving up so soon, I checked outside sources for content reviews (only to have my head spin with the absurdity of it all).  That only confirmed my dislike of it.

I will end on this note: I may be willing to try a different book by Morrison - like The Bluest Eye or Beloved - but not until I have exhausted all of the great classics I can get my hands on. Even if I am trying to get through all the books of The Well-Educated Mind, I cannot compromise my principles.  It just would not be worth it.

12 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Song of Solomon. I didn't have much trouble with it, although I think Beloved should have been in this list instead of SoS, if I were Ms. Bauer. But maybe, Bauer wanted us to dig deeper in the stories with layers of image and metaphor (such as in Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, as well as this Song of Solomon) ?

    Speaking of TWEM list, I am now reading Don Quixote, but I could not enjoy it. For me it's a bit tedious and boring. Hopefully I can make it to the end...

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    1. My husband keeps suggesting that I write Bauer a letter and ask her why she has included such (in my opinion) vulgar choices. Maybe I will.

      And I cannot even tell you how sorry I am that you are not enjoying DQ, b/c it was one of my favorites. But if you prefer imagery and metaphors, that is one thing DQ was lacking in. It was just a silly, entertaining, extremely long adventure. So good luck to you in finishing it.

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    2. I think you should write a letter too. I have not been looking forward to these last few books for the exact reasons you share.

      As far as Morrison, I would not recommend The Bluest Eye if you don't want graphic - I've heard that one is quite graphic as well.

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    3. That's too bad b/c I was willing to give her other books a try.

      I guess, as adults, we are supposed to be able to overlook the offensiveness or shock value of imagery or words, but even still, the story was really awful. It made me mad that I was forcing myself through it.

      I hope these last two books on the novel list are worthwhile.

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  2. After reading Sula in high school, I chose to keep far away from Morrison. Way too vulgar for me. My English teachers argued that the main character was a strong, independent, woman. She was definitely independent, and irresponsible, and insensitive. She has sex with her friend's husband and doesn't stop even after her friend walks in on them, Disgusting.Anyway, this is just a long way of me saying that I have no plans to read Song of Solomon. Thank you for confirming my fears.

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    1. Wow! Thank you for letting me know about Sula. So, I wonder if all of her works are similar. I think I will research that b/c then I won't read the other two I have considered. In other words, whatever I decide about Morrison, I will first have to thoroughly investigate, or I won't touch it.

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  3. You have to be a liberal to read this type of writer. When I read a book it has to meet my standards and I don't care who the writer is and how many blue ribbons they hold for writing. Some reads read books just because a famous person wrote it so they can say they read that book. (fouy) My only exception is the Bible.

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    1. Anonymous, thanks for your input. I do agree: one must be liberal in his thinking to find this particular book engaging, insightful, fulfilling, and intriguing; and I know I am not liberal in my thinking. This book did not feed my soul. Now, Scripture - that feeds the soul.

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  4. I haven't read anything by Morrison, but one of my sister-in-laws had to read Beloved in college and wrote a letter of protest about it to the college board. So I wouldn't hold out much hope of it being all that great either.

    I've read some modern literary novels that are not terrible, but they do seem few and far between.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know. Wow! What a brave woman to write the board in protest, no less. Out of curiosity, I reviewed the plot analysis of several of Morrison's book, and I they are very similar in context and shock value. I really wanted to keep an open mind, but it will be no great loss to me if I never read any of her books.

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  5. Morrison has wriiten other great novels so chuck it and read something else! I was happy to see that you are not slavishly pushing yourself to read it just to have read it! Life is too short and there are too many great novels out there!

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    1. Thanks, Anna. I definitely am open to try something else by Morrison. In fact, I found a used copy of The Bluest Eye at my library and bought it. So I'll give it a try.

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