From the borderline

From The Harvard Gazette:Toni_2

Under a big tent set for lunch in breezy Radcliffe Yard on Friday (June 8), Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison offered a gathering of 950 graduates, fellows, and friends a brief meditation on the oblique efficacy of the humanities. She said these “creative, imaginative arts” counsel, goad, and interrogate American culture from its own borders. The humanities still function “best, and most brilliantly, from the edge,” said Morrison. The meditation was delivered in her trademark style. Measured and slow, each word was spoken as if it were wrestled into precision at that moment. Morrison was awarded the Radcliffe Medal and delivered the keynote address at the luncheon on Radcliffe Day. “Book by book, Toni Morrison has confronted the national memory,” said Faust. “And word by word, she has cleansed it.” The cleansing came from the power of Morrison’s beautifully written stories, said Faust, “filled with loss, haunting, beauty, cruelty, and catastrophe.”

Morrison, who twice won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, took the praise with good humor, and a dose of salt. “I really adore my life as recorded and delivered by Drew,” she said, since it leaves out all the “doubts and regrets and mistakes” there were along the way. “It just flows along in an organized fashion.” If there was an organizing principle to Morrison’s life, she said, it was learning to read at age 3, and falling under the spell of the written word. Reading marked her path from high school graduation in Lorain, Ohio (1949), when opportunities were not plentiful for “an African-American female without money, who was simply fairly well-read,” Morrison said. “So I just followed the books.”

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