Remembering Toni Morrison
I'm anderson and this is the studio three sixty podcast. This is evan chung from studio three sixty toni morrison the author of books including beloved and song of solomon died on monday august fifth at the age of eighty eight. Toni morrison's novels won her the pulitzer prize and the nobel prize and in two thousand twelve barack obama awarded her a presidential medal of freedom her work inspired countless readers and writers like hilton. All's the new yorker critic when hilton guests toasted studio three sixty in two thousand fourteen tony morrison was his first choice of interviewee. They spoke at morrison's home and she started by telling him about about her writer lee habits. I recently been sleeping the lead like seventy. That's the way okay for you because you're up at four before the light and wannabes air with it so that's depending on the season and then i can uh-huh really smart in the morning. You caught me at the edge john downs but you work. You still work in the morning depending. Is it a fixed schedule or is it. I don't know i don't do it every day because it's not there every day. When i get the first draft i can work every day because it's it's something to work law. That's right exactly so when i'm still you know moving in. I started something about to go. I have no idea where it came from but it's infectious. Just this kid says i put the cup on the window sill to catch the blood. I can't talk but i hear everything everything he sort of. I i am excited. Not only whatever that plot is which i think i know about now but i am so excited about writing from the foreign view of a mute <music> who can here. I am the voice when i first discovered toni morrison's song of solomon i was seventeen and it knocked me for a loop. The protagonist reminded me and my father a black man of some privilege. Recently i reread song of solomon and i was struck by the friendship between the two male characters called milkman and guitar that deep affection between the two men and is something i feel have been missing literature before tony voted down and i wanted to know where that came from the impetus really was that my father died right and i had decided to write a story sort of in the area of the pre civil rights movement and i thought i don't know a thing about these men i wish i knew what my father knew and when i said that thought that there was this feeling of serenity and confidence and competence as though i knew he would let me now so of course we had no conversation between the living in the dead but that's serenity that i felt that i could enter tune into that. World with confidence happened after i asked that question. Can you tell us a little bit of boat you for the yeah he he was born in georgia carter's ville georgia and although i never knew while he was alive why he laughed. I knew he was about fourteen years old when he left but he had seen two black. Men businessmen lynched lynched on his street hanging from trees so he left he had a half brother in california and then he became where many people were coming lorraine ohio which was a steel town and there was a lot of work. They're married. My mother worked worked at some times three jobs. You know washing cars doing this and that until in fact the war came a lot of black men and older men got jobs in these factories that probably they would not have before and i remember the day he got the job and told my mother with the salary was i think it was fifty dollars. If she kicks off her shoes we would have and that feeling doing good work. They came home one sunday and said to me he was at that time a welder at the shipyards and he said today i i made the perfect seen on the ship. He said it was so perfect that i signed my initials at the bottom and i said daddy nobody's going to see it and he said but i noticed there and it made such an impression on me about his perfection in work his sense of not display partic- doing first rate work good enough for him not for the ship or other people but his own ideals sales of what good work was and that was the satisfaction of his life and most of the men. I knew another amazing story that i read take awhile back about when you were a teenager you were cleaning house for this lady and you said you told your father that the work was was hard and the lady was mean and your father said go to get your money and come on home. You don't live there. You live here boom. Separation ratios have never had an employee that one of the things that makes me love both of those stories stories that he's telling you that there are limits limited heights that you can reach and and valuable i am or he was as a human being beautiful work mind. It's beautiful work. It's a perfect see somebody. Somebody doesn't like you at work. It's not about you. You know you were doing work over there. Your value is that you live here. It's it's not what somebody's calling. You names saying you. The lady was right. You know i do not know what i was doing. I had never seen a vacuum cleaner. The stove that complicated you know she said cleaned the stove taking this though but i forgot the of it's i can't blame them if she knows that. My feelings were hurt state now let out do you work once you were on the other side of being a daughter with your father and so on and you then were a mother to your boys the idea of safety of keeping your boys save. How did bach masculinity look to you then when you then responsible for these boys in the way your father have been responsible for you did did you feel the same kind of protectiveness that your father fell towards you and more because you were frightened frightened of what could happen to them. <hes> i remember being in a house that we were living in then and looking out the window at night hoping to see my son come down the road because he was late. I felt i wasn't strong spiritually intellectually but i thought if something happened you know physically physically what could <hes> do every summer every summer they went home to my parents and my father my mother and their cousins so they spent a lotta time in that media <hes> you know with all kinds of males which probably helped him but i always felt a sense of regret that i couldn't be two people still feeling still really big one of the things that i loved when i looked at the photograph of the woman who wrote on the solomon when i brought that book thing with sixteen dollars maybe something twelve ninety five or something anthem long ago and i remember i had twenty dollars for the week and i said that's the week and i looked at the photo auto and i said but i know her you were every woman i knew in my life who single mother had had a job had this other life one of the things that you said during that period in an interview about song solomon when was that you didn't want you never imagine growing up being a writer. You wanted to grow up to be a grownup an adult. They always knew you were smart in your family finally was there any indication that all that you would be a creator of books yourself no they thought and i thought that i would teach school. I was thirty nine years old when i published the blue sky and it takes me five years to put it together because i will really was very eager to read it. I wanted to read a book book about a vote the most vulnerable person in society in female child. They're always jokes folks. They never hold the stage and i also wanted to write a book about a time when it hurt racism mm-hmm and what what would the consequences of it <hes> to take her seriously but i wanted to read that book and it wasn't around so i started writing it in bits and pieces rewriting and then i joined a risers club and so on but it was the impulse to know to to know to imagine to have a book like that somewhere uh-huh and then of course i found that when i finished that book a very deep into sadness and and and i realized that i don't really like get around here if i don't have something to write those summit to imagine yeah to be in this other my other free imaginative place in the years after the bluest eye tony was recognized as one of the great marvelous of our time i think of some of the canonical black writers before her such as james ball ralph ellison which way i see a big difference in the way tony imagines male characters men love often i loved in return and that's not something i see in the works of those male writers missile sort of sexist but i think in the male writers feel isolated feel separate chiel different. I think women writers. I don't i feel very strongly connected to friends or community. I never felt cut off from even when i was far away i felt other people and a life into community munity or on the street or in house. Even though we live in many places being evicted rather constantly you get an i._t. Not really needs and i don't know if that's exactly true but i always felt like with invisible man. I'd love that book invisible man but the title says it all it says invisible to home not to me. Even when i noticed the rape scenes for example ralph ellison it's terrible but there is somehow in the languages sense of power accomplishment so when i do is a great scene in the bluest staff i use very feminine language very suppled on proud language is what he's doing is not even about her. It's not his own failures of his own. You know as it's a kid so you know it's i referred to it. Sometimes this sort of invisible inquiry not over for you know when i was trying to make the reader happy comfortable cheerful win in home i just removed all color yes from every place he wasn't on his way so that it was so welcoming and heat surprises him where these trees always this green and then you know trying to find out what color the sun would be at the very end here lies a man so i decided tomato tomato later where it would be the cholera and with the blood and fruit and nourishment when you you receive the national medal of freedom from president of 'em. How did you feel receiving from him and being in that space felt glorious. There was a certain about of joy and glory receiving it from him and he 'cause. I was at a wheelchair sort of percents walking very well. I held his hand out. I took an pulled me out and there was this feeling i i don't know how this can be interpreted but the relationship not relationship the ara laura was as though i was standing next to an older brother. He's you know half my age. If you could understand what or do older brother yes. He looked out for you. Yeah he know could hurt us us <hes> working on a new book yeah. I turned it a book. That's it's great news yeah. No it's <hes> i love it but it's very very different from before <hes> would you talk about your new book at all. No shadow kyra what the audience does it though before you guys tuned in tony and i were laughing about <hes> <hes>. She said that she was very happy to be eighty years old because there were three things that she could say now and not worry about it. One was no the other one was shut up and the other was get out. Tony welcome knew that was the late tony morrison with the new yorker worker critic health and they spoke in two thousand fourteen. Our story was produced by julia lowery henderson <music> and thanks for listening and you can subscribe to studio three sixteen wherever you get podcasts.