In May, I finished three titles from my Classics Club reading list. However, due to the general rockiness of Life, I didn’t get a formal review written for any of them. So I thought I’d post some free-form thoughts and reactions on each before moving into June for a fresh start.
Wow. To be honest, I could stop right there, saying nothing more, and it would encompass most of what this book made me think and feel. But as that is anything but specific, I’ll elaborate by saying I think Toni Morrison is a powerful and deeply thought-provoking writer. This book was harrowing and heart-breaking. I’m made of pretty stern stuff and don’t balk at the harshest topics for reading, but Morrison simply pulls no punches.
This book includes some of the most intense and horrific scenes I’ve ever read. It’s not so much the content, although that is indeed brutal. It’s the way she conveys the content, her narrative voice. Morrison is such a fundamentally poetic writer, her word choice so beautiful and haunting, that even the most horrifying scenes wash over you like silk. Her use of metaphor and the sort of strangeness most often encountered in speculative fiction to convey deadly serious and real stories is pure genius. Her authorial blade is so keenly sharp, it slides through you so easily that you don’t realize how much damage has been done until you see the blood pouring from the wound. A month later, I still feel the sting every time I think back on this book.
I want to say I must rush to read all her other books, but honestly I don’t know if I can do so. I don’t know if I can take another emotional flaying of this sort so soon.
I wasn’t expecting to love this one as much as I did, as I am not generally drawn to tales of World War I (or WWII, for that matter.) But I was mesmerized by this brief book, unable to stop turning pages, saddened for everyone involved. It was tragic and lovely and strange and strangely sweet, with characters so honest and human. West was a very canny author.
I had wanted to read this science fiction classic for years, ever since I learned that it inspired both Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell’s 1984 (1949,) both of which ended up much more well-known internationally than their Russian predecessor. I think of the three, ABNW is my favorite, but We was still terribly clever and far ahead of its time. It felt somehow quieter and more understated to me than either of the two famous works it inspired, but its message speaks no less strongly, even after all these years.