I read up to pg. 24 of Toni Morrison’s Beloved or so last night, but to pg. 159 today. It is 324 pages long and I may finish it on Monday. For now—all I can say is that it is really disturbing. However, just to be fair, after I have finished reading Beloved, Song of Solomon, and The Bluest Eye—over three weekends, I hope—then I shall read William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor to see if their fiction is as dark. After all, they are usually described as “classic” authors who write about “disturbing” themes… so I will have something to measure Toni Morrison against. Then I might read Richard Wright’s Native Son, which I tried to read some years back, but found it too disturbing at the time, as the title character “Bigger” is the protagonist who rapes and murders his girlfriend. There have been black feminists who have taken Wright to issue—including Zora Neale Hurston—because they saw the brutality of the act as misogynistic. Well, I guess I will see what I think for myself.
I’m admitting that the reason I am reading all of these books is to make up my own mind as to whether Toni Morrison should be taught in the school system. After all, both students and parents ought to have some rights in terms of what the curriculum is. If some teacher in high school decided to cut loose and teach the kids Nabokov’s Lolita, I would be very upset and might protest myself. I do not believe any underage student—black or white—needs Lolita to deal with in an age all too close to adolescence. I don’t know that I would want to read the book myself, having read part of Reading Lolita in Teheran. Having read what I read, I simply decided never to read Lolita; I find the book too upsetting.
With that in mind, I guess I want to find out if Beloved is the same way only less so. I guess you could see the book as anti-White or anti-Christian, but what upsets me so far is the portrayal of the main black male character Paul D. as a rapist and of the girl Beloved being raped at the age when her wisdom teeth are coming in. I don’t know that I think it is even good for me to read it; I certainly don’t want an impressionable young person to. With that in mind, I will try to withhold judgment until I finish reading Morrison’s trilogy; Faulkner and O’Connor; and Richard Wright’s Native Son. Then I can say for myself whether my suspicions about Toni Morrison were justified or not.