“Young people, Lord. Do they still call it infatuation? That magic ax that chops away the world in one blow, leaving only the couple standing there trembling? Whatever they call it, it leaps over anything, takes the biggest chair, the largest slice, rules the ground wherever it walks, from a mansion to a swamp, and its selfishness is its beauty.”– Toni Morrison, Love
It’s almost September and I’ve managed to keep my Morrison-a-month reading streak alive. Eight Morrison’s later and she never fails to surprise me, even though these are rereads. I enjoyed Love, a well-written book with a lot of fodder for discussion. The strange thing is I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention it. I wonder why it doesn’t have the same appeal as some of her other books?
Love begins with our narrator introducing us to the coast community the book is set in; she talks about the past in nostalgic tones, how things have changed, and how things haven’t changed. The main story itself is centered around the legend Bill Cosey, a black entrepreneur, and the women in his life who fight for his attention: his (very) young wife, daughter-in-law, grand-daughter and a few others. Even though Cosey has been deceased for a couple of decades, he is still a very strong, disturbing presence in the lives of these women.
This is a sad story of misunderstandings, bitterness, cruelty, hurt and anger. The three women share a house and we aren’t sure why there is so much hatred between them. Morrison reveals things slowly and in a non-linear manner, and I’m left wondering how on earth women’s lives can be fulfilling if they are centred solely around men, especially when this competition is encouraged, which, in this book, resulted in very strong feelings:
“Hate does that. Burns off everything but itself, so whatever your grievance is, your face looks just like your enemy’s.”
“Finally they stopped, moved into acid silence, and invented other ways to underscore bitterness….Like friendship, hatred needed more thank physical intimacy; it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself.”
When it comes to Morrison’s writing, what stands out to me most are her descriptions of things, in particular how she uses colour; it’s often a short poetic respite from the tough subject matter she writes:
“Jade and sapphire waves fight each other, kicking up enough foam to wash sheets in. An evening sky behaves as though it’s from another planet– one without rules, where the sun can be plum purple if it wants to and clouds can be red as poppies.”
This was an emotional whirlwind of a book and Morrison takes us in so many different directions, down many paths of discoveries. There is plenty of food for thought in this one: families, their secrets and their hurts.
“The problem for those left alive is what to do about revenge–how to escape the sweetness of its rot. So you can see why families make the best enemies. They have time and convenience to honey-butter the wickedness they prefer. Shortsighted, though.”