The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s first book, The Bluest Eye, came out in 1970 and tells the story of an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove. She lives in Lorain, Ohio. Pecola thinks her life would be better if she looked like a white woman and had blue eyes. Several people tell her story in a book about sexual violence, blackness, and love that talks about these things and more. Claudia MacTeer is Claudia MacTeer’s friend. Claudia MacTeer is a member of a loving, united family and is against black women’s idealization of whiteness. Claudia MacTeer is a friend of Claudia MacTeer. Morrison thinks that stories can help people. She loves/forgives Cholly and Pauline even though they have been cruel and violent. She understands the context of their lives that have been damaged.
Jane Ciabattari: How does Morrison use language to show how much she cares about Cholly and Pauline, as well as Pecola?
In Susan Shreve’s words, Morrison’s language is poetic and rich. It’s warm, emotional, and operatic. She is a storyteller who loves and understands her characters, no matter how much violence they have done. Through the rhythm and crescendos of her words, we learn about Cholly and Pauline in light of the hard lives they have had and even though they have been cruel and mean.
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
As a great high school athlete and successful businessman, Seymour Levov, known as “the Swede,” enjoys a charmed life that is cut short by the political violence of the sixties. American Pastoral is the first book of Roth’s three-book American trilogy, which he wrote in the 1960s. His daughter, Merry, is partly to blame for her father’s broken life. She is also to blame for setting off a bomb that kills a man. In Roth’s book, Nathan Zuckerman, his alter ego, tells the story through his voice. He was a high school athlete and a success story in the United States. People who lived in the sixties and now are in a political crisis are like Merry, who has a lot of different things going on in her.
JC: How does Roth make us aware of Merry’s act of violence and how it affects “the Swede” in the book?
He is a near-perfect example of postwar American ideallism. Seymour Levov, “the Swede,” is a great example of this. It’s when his daughter is eleven years old that he shows some weakness. He’s a great athlete, but also kind, honorable, and self-controlled. A sudden surge of emotions makes him lose control of his standards of decorum, so he passionately kisses her. In the 1960s, Merry becomes an activist against the Vietnam War. Later, as a teenager, she sets off a bomb at a small post office, killing a doctor who everyone in the town loved. Finally, “The Swede” is destroyed by his own sense that he is to blame for Merry’s actions, which he thinks are because he broke the rules of morality. He sees what he did when his daughter was a child as a betrayal of both Merry and himself.
Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
When the novella’s story was tense, it was interesting.
People know Black Water because it’s the same place as Chappaquiddick, the small island where Senator Teddy Kennedy’s car veered off the road into the water. He survived, but the woman with him drowned. A short time after the accident, Oates thinks about what might have happened to Kelly Kelleher. In that time, Oates imagines what might have happened to her. The Senator goes off the road while drunk and the car flips over in the water. When people don’t take care of things, they end up hurting people. This book is simple, elegiac, and intense.
JC: Is there a scene in Oates’ book that sums up the sense of carelessness that he portrays?
SS: Oates talks a lot about people who have been hurt, especially women. Unbelievably, she can always figure out the exact gesture that is both chilling and unforgettable. The Senator steps on Kelly Kelleher as he tries to get out of the car and into the open water to save his own life. He pushes off her body to get away. Regardless of what else happened that night, this nightmare detail will stay with the reader. It is both true to fact and to fiction.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
A North Dakota judge’s son is the narrator of “The Round House.” Joe is the son of the judge. The book starts with a father and son, then 13 years old, working on their house together. When they learn that Joe’s mother Geraldine has been raped, they are shocked. She was attacked near a ceremonial building called The Round House. In the beginning of the book, Joe is too young to understand what rape is, so he and his friends go around the reservation and learn about the culture and rules of the Native American community. They also learn about their own sexuality and how to deal with the brutality of his mother’s attack on him. By looking for justice for his mother, Joe finds that a white man isn’t punishable by Native law. This shows that justice and the law can be hard to understand. His father believes in the rule of law, but his grandfather, Mooshum, believes a monster like the rapist should be killed in line with tradition. The young Joe has to decide which one to believe.
I want to know if Erdrich’s beautiful descriptions of the landscape in this book had an impact on your own descriptions of the setting of More News Tomorrow, as your characters travel up the Bone River to Missing Lake, Wisconsin.
Mostly, I’ve written about cities I’ve lived in and know. There are a lot of things that happen in cities, so the novelist has a lot to work with. But there is more news Tomorrow, I’m going to write about a canoe trip on a river in northern Wisconsin. Most of the action will happen in the river and at the campsite. It was hard to make a story that had the qualities of a thriller. People in northern Wisconsin must have a lot of land that looks a lot like the landscape of The Round House, right? And, of course, the rich descriptions in many of Erdrich’s books were a big help. My characters are people who have never been to this river before. They live in cities and have little experience in the wild. In this book, the setting itself is a character. It is beautiful, dangerous, and unpredictable.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
There is a story, or maybe a series of stories, about how the American Dream crumbles, how the past is hard to find, and how democracy can be both good and bad. Summer 1922 is a time of cynicism and greed like our own. It takes place on Long Island. We don’t learn much about Jay Gatsby until the end of the book. He has bought a mansion in West Egg on Long Island, and he hopes that his extravagant parties will attract Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy debutante who lives across the bay from him. During the book, Nick Carraway, who is from the Midwest and works as a bonds salesman, rents a small house next door to Gatsby. Daisy and Tom are people that Nick knows. When he learns that Gatsby is in love with Daisy, he makes a tea and invites her without telling her that Gatsby will be there. The couple gets back together. The reader, who is sure that Nick is telling the truth and who senses danger in the story of lust and adultery, money and carelessness, knows that things will not go well, that feelings of betrayal will run high, and that violence is bound to happen.
JC: How does Gatsby’s mysterious past affect the plot, which leads to violence?
Gatsby’s money comes from criminal activity, and he may have killed a man. The plot is based on what we don’t know about Gatsby, but what we do know about him is that he came from nothing and made his own American Dream. This book can’t end well.
Then there’s the irony of Gatsby’s death, which came about because he took the blame for driving the car that hit Tom’s girlfriend, Myrtle, when in fact it was Daisy who was behind the wheel. It then leads to his own death at the hands of Myrtle’s husband in a swimming pool.