In Paradise–her first novel since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature–Toni Morrison gives us a bravura performance. As the book begins deep in Oklahoma early one morning in 1976, nine men from Ruby (pop. 360), in defense of “the one all-black town worth the pain,” assault the nearby Convent and the women in it. From the town’s ancestral origins in 1890 to the fateful day of the assault, Paradise tells the story of a people ever mindful of the relationship between their spectacular history and a void “Out There … where random and organized evil erupted when and where it chose.” Richly imagined and elegantly composed, Paradise weaves a powerful mystery.
It’s not a major theme but one of the characters has an issue with self-injury. The following is an excerpt:
The little streets were narrow and straight, but as soon as she made them they flooded. Sometimes she held toilet tissue to catch the blood, but she liked to let it run too. The trick was to slice at just the right depth. Not too light, or the cut yielded too faint a line of red. Not so deep it rose and gushed over so fast you couldn’t see the street.
Although she had moved the map from her arms to her thighs, she recognized with pleasure the traces of old roads, avenues that even Norma had been repelled by. One was sometimes enough for months.
Then there were times when she did two a day, hardly giving a street time to close before she opened another one. But she was not reckless.
Her instruments were clean, her iodine (better than Mercurochrome) plentiful. And she had added aloe cream to her kit.
The habit, begun in one of the foster homes, started as an accident. Before her foster brother-another kid in Mama Greer’s house-got her underwear off the first time, a safety pin holding the waist of her jeans together where a metal button used to be opened and scratched her stomach as Harry yanked on them. Once the jeans were tossed away and he got to her panties, the line of blood excited him even more. She did not cry. It did not hurt. When Mama Greer bathed her, she clucked, “Poor baby. Why didn’t you tell me?” and Mercurochromed the jagged cut. She was not sure what she should have told: the safety pin scratch or Harry’s behavior. So she pin-scratched herself on purpose and showed it to Mama Greer. Because the sympathy she got was diluted, she told her about Harry. “Don’t you ever say that again. Do you hear me? Do you? Nothing like that happens here.” After a meal of her favorite things, she was placed in another home. Nothing happened for years. Until junior high school, then the eleventh grade. By then she knew that there was something inside her that made boys snatch her and men flash her. If she was drinking Coke with five girls at a dime store counter, she was the one whose nipple got tweaked by a boy on a dare from his sniggering friends. Four girls, or just one, might walk down the street, but when she passed the man sitting with his baby daughter on a park bench, it was then he lifted his penis out and made kissing noises. Refuge with boyfriends was no better. They took her devotion for granted, but if she complained to them about being fondled by friends or strangers their fury was directed at her, so she knew it was something inside that was the matter.
She entered the vice like a censored poet whose suspect lexicon was too supple, too shocking to publish. It thrilled her. It steadied her.
Access to this under garment life kept her own eyes dry, inducing a serenity rocked only by crying women, the sight of which touched off a pain so wildly triumphant she would do anything to kill it. She was ten and not cutting sidewalks when Kennedy was killed and the whole world wept in public. But she was fifteen when King was killed one spring and another Kennedy that summer. She called in sick to her baby-sitting job each time and stayed indoors to cut short streets, lanes, alleys into her arms. Her blood work was fairly easy to hide. Like Eddie Turtle, most of her boyfriends did it in the dark. For those who insisted on answers she invented a disease. Sympathy was instant for the scars did look surgical.
Book Title Paradise
Author Toni Morrison
Recently Browsing 0 members
No registered users viewing this page.