Friday, November 17, 2006

Toni Morrison reads from her unpublished next novel at the Louvre

I don't think I've used this old line before, but I need to use it now: where to begin?

I will write later with details, but for the moment: Morrison read a moving and lyrical excerpt from her next novel, Mercy. It fit beautifully with the theme of her astonishingly stimulating program, titled The Foreigner's Home, this month at the Louvre. I have heard her read before (twice--well, almost three times--I happened to go to the bathroom and miss her reading from Jazz at Wynton Marsalis's Higher Ground Benefit in September 2005!), but I was not prepared for the beauty of this work or for the manifest excitement of knowing that this was a healthy glimpse at this great writer's next work, which she describes as "very much in progress."

Following the reading, there was a signing at the Louvre bookstore. Appropriately, I had Morrison sign the program's catalog. I thanked her ("very much") and she looked at me deliberately and replied, in her signature gravely voice, "You're welcome." Yes, on paper this sounds banal, and I have had her sign a book before (Love, in 2003), but this was a moment for me. It's too complicated and personal to get into here--suffice it to say that this day will go down as one of the great ones.

It doesn't hurt that I spent part of the afternoon in the peaceful autumnal splendor of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Pictures and video to come.

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