Literary Birthday – 18 February – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was born 18 February 1931 and died 5 August 2019.

15 Toni Morrison Quotes On Writing and Life

  1. What was driving me to write was the silence – so many stories untold and unexamined.
  2. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp. We will not blame you if your words go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the red places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.
  3. There was a vacuum in the literature. I was inspired by the silence and absences.
  4. If you’re blocked, you probably ought to be.
  5. When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.
  6. If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
  7. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.
  8. I often think about rewriting or continuing the life of particular characters in subsequent books, but I have found that it’s a kind of trap because you never really go on to another topic.
  9. In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.
  10. I didn’t plan on either children or writing. Once I realized that writing satisfied me in some enormous way, I had to make adjustments. The writing was always marginal in terms of time when the children were small. But it was major in terms of my head.
  11. The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarise the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.
  12. Nelson Mandela is, for me, the single statesman in the world. The single statesman, in that literal sense, who is not solving all his problems with guns. It’s truly unbelievable.
  13. I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously, you can’t teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort.
  14. I would solve a lot of literary problems just thinking about a character in the subway, where you can’t do anything anyway.
  15. We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

MUST-READ: 6 Things You Can Learn From Toni Morrison On Writing

Toni Morrison was an American novelist, editor, and professor. She was best known for The Bluest EyeSong of Solomon, and Beloved. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and she received the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. She was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 18th February 2013