AuthorToni Morrison
FinishedJuly 16, 2019
Rating4.3 / 5

Goodreads link

Overall impressions: Very cleverly written book. I didn't really understand that the book mirrored the style of jazz. I really liked that the first part of the book just opened up with a TL;DR of the story (literally, the first two paragraphs is that Joe shot his lover and Violet let the birds go and went crazy). There's no hiding about the plot. This book is not about the complexity of the plot; it is about the complexity of the psyche. And it's similar to how a jazz standard opens — it states the "plot" once, plainly, before going on to improvise. There are no secrets on the general skeleton of the plot. The rest of the book are the different improvisation sections. The views into the different characters' minds is like the solo sections of different instruments. And the ending (once Felice shows up to the Traces' doorstep) is basically the coda.

Some quotes I liked from the book:

  • "Can't rival the dead for love. Lose every time." (15)

  • "... It is impossible to have nothing to do, no sequence of errands, list of tasks" (15)

  • "The notion of rest, it's attractive to her, but i don't think she would like it. They are all like that, these women. Waiting for the ease, the space that need not be filled with anything other than the drift of their own thoughts. But they wouldn't like it. They are busy thinking of ways to be busier because such a space of nothing pressing to do would knock them down ... They fill their minds and hands with soap and repair ... Molten. Thick and slow-moving." (16)

  • "... which pleased the slow-moving whores, who never hurried anything but love" (17)

  • "How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city, it is for forever, and it is like forever." (33)

  • "There is no air in the City but there is breath" (34)

  • "He forgets a sun that used to slide up like the yolk of a good country egg, thick and red-orange at the bottom of the sky, and he doesn't miss it, doesn't look up to see what happened to it or to stars made irrelevant by the light of thrilling, wasteful street lamps" (34)

  • "The weekends, destined to disappoint" (50)

  • "The brothers turn up the wattage of their smiles" (67)

  • "I don't understand women like you. Women with knives." (85)

  • "By and by longing became heavier than sex: a panting, unmanageable craving. She was limp in its thrall or rigid in an effort to dismiss it." (108)

  • "His mind soaked and sodden with sorrow, or dry and brittle with the hopelessness that comes with knowing too little and feeling too much (so brittle, so dry he is in danger of the reverse: feeling nothing and knowing everything)" (161)

  • "Where did you pick up a wild woman? / In the woods. Where wild women grow." (171)

  • "But now they were full of her, a simple-minded woman too silly to beg for a living ... She was powerless, invisible, wastefully daft**. Everywhere and nowhere**." (179

    • Wild (Joe Trace's mom) is free. She does not need to BEG for a living. She is the embodiment of raw freedom, like an animal
    • Meanwhile, Violet turns into a different kind of wild woman ... an artificial wild woman?
  • "It was like falling into the sun. Noon light followed him like lava into a stone room where somebody cooked in oil." (183)

  • "He didn't even care what I looked like. I could be anything, do anything — and it pleased him. Something about that made me mad. I don't know" (190)

    • Joe Trace mainly wants Dorcas for her youth.
    • Dorcas is bothered that Joe likes her for who she is. Joe empowered her to be herself . But she was too young — before she had crafted a clear perception of self/personality to even BE
  • "Silhouettes kiss behind curtains ... This is not the place for old men; this is the place for romance." (192)

    • Acton was annoyed by Dorcas' dying and by her blood getting on his suit
    • This is analogous to Golden Gray getting annoyed and careless with the pregnant, bloody Wild.
    • Men don't care ....
    • Joe "cared", but essentially only about himself and his own self pity
    • "The blood. What a mess it made. That's all they talked about." (210)
  • "Mr. Trace looks at you.... I like it when he looks at me. I feel, I don't know, interesting." (206)

  • "What's the world for if you can't make it up the way you want it? ... Don't you want it to be something more than what it is? .... If you don't, it will change you and it'll be your fault cause you let it. I let it. And messed up my life...... Messed it up, forgot it. Forgot it was mine. My life. I just ran up and down the streets wishing I was somebody else." (208)

    • Living life vs. letting life live you ... How do I want my life?
  • "Me .... Not like the 'me' was some tough somebody, or somebody she had put together for show. But like, like somebody she favored and could count on. A secret somebody you didn't have to feel sorry for or have to fight for." (210)

  • "It's nice when grown people whisper to each other under the covers. Their ecstasy is more leaf-sigh than bray and the body is the vehicle, not the point. They reach, grown people, for something beyond, way beyond and way, way down underneath tissue." (228)

  • "They are under covers because they don't have to look at themselves anymore ... That is what is beneath their undercover whispers." (228)