Goodbye Toni Morrison

By Margalit Fox

image
Toni Morrison, the 1993 Nobel laureate in literature, whose acclaimed, best-selling work explored black identity in America and in particular the experience of black women, died on Monday in the Bronx. She was 88.

Her death, at Montefiore Medical Center, was announced by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. A spokeswoman said the cause was complications of pneumonia. Ms. Morrison lived in Grand View-on-Hudson, N.Y.

The first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Ms. Morrison was the author of 11 novels as well as children’s books and essay collections. Among them were celebrated works like “Song of Solomon,” which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

Ms. Morrison was one of the rare American authors whose books were both critical and commercial successes. Her novels appeared regularly on The New York Times best-seller list, were featured multiple times on Oprah Winfrey’s television book club and were the subject of myriad critical studies. A longtime faculty member at Princeton, Ms. Morrison lectured widely and was seen often on television.
In awarding her the Nobel, the Swedish Academy cited her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

Ms. Morrison animated that reality in a style resembling that of no other writer in English. Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act.

Her narratives mingle the voices of men, women, children and even ghosts in layered polyphony. Myth, magic and superstition are inextricably intertwined with everyday verities, a technique that caused Ms. Morrison’s novels to be likened often to those of Latin American magic realist writers like Gabriel García Márquez.

In “Sula,” a woman blithely lets a train run over her leg for the insurance money it will give her family. In “Song of Solomon,” a baby girl is named Pilate by her father, who “had thumbed through the Bible, and since he could not read a word, chose a group of letters that seemed to him strong and handsome.” In “Beloved,” the specter of a murdered child takes up residence in the house of her murderer.

Throughout Ms. Morrison’s work, elements like these coalesce around her abiding concern with slavery and its legacy. In her fiction, the past is often manifest in a harrowing present — a world of alcoholism, rape, incest and murder, recounted in unflinching detail.

It is a world, Ms. Morrison writes in “Beloved” (the novel is set in the 19th century but stands as a metaphor for the 20th), in which “anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind.”

“Not just work, kill or maim you, but dirty you,” she goes on. “Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up.”

But as Ms. Morrison’s writing also makes clear, the past is just as strongly manifest in the bonds of family, community and race — bonds that let culture, identity and a sense of belonging be transmitted from parents to children to grandchildren. These generational links, her work unfailingly suggests, form the only salutary chains in human experience.

“She is a friend of my mind,” a character in “Beloved,” a former slave, thinks about the woman he loves. “She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

A First Doomed Heroine

Ms. Morrison’s singular approach to narrative is evident in her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” written in stolen moments between her day job as a book editor and her life as the single mother of two young sons. Published in 1970, it is narrated by Claudia McTeer, a black girl in Ohio, who with her sister, Frieda, is the product of a strict but loving home.

The novel’s doomed heroine is their friend Pecola Breedlove, who at 11, growing up in an America inundated with images of Shirley Temple and Dick and Jane, believes she is ugly and prays for the one thing she is sure will save her: blue eyes.

[Toni Morrison left behind a powerful literary legacy. These are her most essential books.]

In a drunken, savagely misguided attempt to show Pecola she is desirable, her father rapes her, leaving her pregnant. Now an outcast both in the community and within her own fractured family, Pecola descends into madness, believing herself possessed of blue eyes at last.

Reviewing the novel in The New York Times, John Leonard commended Ms. Morrison for telling the story “with a prose so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry.”

The novel prefigures much of Ms. Morrison’s later work in its preoccupation with history — often painful — as seen through the lens of an individual life; with characters’ quests, tragic or successful, for their place in the world; with the redemptive power of community; and with the role women play in the survival of such communities.

 

READ MORE IN TNYT

SOURCE:The New York Times

A TRIBUTE: WHAT A WOMAN’S WORLD!- By William Warigon

A TRIBUTE: WHAT A WOMAN’S WORLD!

afr3

A woman’s right

Is her human right

She is dogged in fight

An all encompassing luminous light

Pervading the width and breadth of the universe

Such a branded, brilliant mistress of the universe

Carrying chest-full of milk of kindness

An epitome of jar of joy and happiness

Veritable vessel of pure prudence

Walking in storms in confidence

She is the prairie, the meadow

Strong, resolute even as a widow

She spins some songs

Conceived as wrongs

Inexorably, her breasts feed mankind

The sort that may deal with her unkind

A beautiful soul that charms a kingdom

Behind her kohl lined eyes lurks wisdom

That produces Queen, Prime Minister and Mother

Exuding such sweetness personified of a great lover

In times of war, her shoulder bears the burden

Of the folly of men who’re staunchly beholden

To the chaos and inhumanity to humanity

She scents the world’s odoriferous depravity

A quantum of solace to counter ego’s proclivity

She’s the perfect picture on the wall

Whose crowned dignity stands tall

Woman, God made you a woman

To woo man, making him a man

Your heart of smelted gold

Is a gift to souls new and old

Making the wan world a warm home

You have traipsed life’s thorny way

With gnarled knees from how you pray

Woman, well done!Welcome!

I am so glad you are my mom!

©Warigon2018 . All rights reserved.

POETIC JUSTICE 110 – By Mshinaram Warigon Ahrey

teachers day

A TRIBUTE TO MY TEACHER

My teacher was my preacher

She’s a maverick mind polisher

With a mind to make minds richer

She taught me to be the reacher

I reached for the sleek sky

She gave me the wings to fly

She showed me the way high

She was my idol, I cannot lie

An icon with pure panache 

With a golden heart so large 

She made me the truth seeker

When I longed to be city slicker

At a time when my brain grew weaker

She gave the impetus to grow stronger

Her reward may be in heaven

With my eight I give her seven

My teacher, ever meeker

My mind molding bleacher

You’re such an inspiring creature

In my heart you’ll ever feature

©William Warigon 2018 . All rights reserved

teachers day.jpg 2

Sally Field Pays Heartfelt Tribute to Burt Reynolds

Hollywood has lost a legend.

And Sally Field has lost a true love.

Burt Reynolds died on Thursday of a heart attack, passing away at his home in Jupiter, Florida.

The legendary actor was 82 years old.

Sally Field and Burt Reynolds

Upon learning of his death, a number of entertainment industry heavyweights have expressed their sympathy and their sorrow (scroll down), but one name stands out from all the rest right now.

Sally Field met Reynolds on the set of the 1977 smash hit comedy, Smokey and the Bandit.

The actress and the actor would date for five years… while also co-starring in several more films, including Smokey and the Bandit II, The End and Hooper.

Although they split for good in 1982, Reynolds recounted the romance over 30 years later in an interview with Vanity Fair, referring to Field as “the love of my life.”

And it’s clear now that Reyonds was never far from the two-time Oscar winner’s heart, either.

Burt Reynolds Snapshot

“There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away,” Field said in a statement this afternoon, adding of Reynolds:

“They stay alive, even forty years later. My years with Burt never leave my mind. He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.”

Reynolds’ manager, Erik Kritzer, confirmed the passing of this big screen icon, while his niece, Nancy Lee Hess, said the following on Thursday:

“My uncle was not just a movie icon; he was a generous, passionate and sensitive man who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students.

“He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tailbone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was.

“My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino (in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and the amazing cast that was assembled.”

Burt Reynolds Image

In recent years, Reynolds used a cane while out in public. His last appearance in front of a big crowd took place at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

In the wake of his passing, nearly everyone across Hollywood chimed in with a story about Reynolds or with a few thoughts about the highly-respected actor. To wit:

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes. He was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me. He also had a great sense of humor – check out his Tonight Show clips. My thoughts are with his family.

Reba McEntire: My good friend has started a new journey. Rest in my peace my friend. I’ll never forget the wonderful times we spent together.

Sylvester Stallone: A sad day, my friend BURT REYNOLDS Has passed away. I remember him back in 1979, he always reminded me that I should’ve cast him as Colonel Trautman in FIRST BLOOD , I said that’s impossible, because you’re too expensive and too famous, and probably tougher than Rambo ! He laughed , He had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed his company so much… RIP Buddy

burt tributes

Goldie Hawn: There is only One Burt Reynolds. One! I loved our time our laughs and fun. Now your angels will giggle at your silly jokes as they hold you lightly as you rest dear one.

Kevin Bacon: Im 19.  I get a few lines in a movie. The megastar on set was really nice and cool to this punk actor(me) for no reason. The director called me before the movie came out to tell me I had hit the cutting room floor. But I never forgot that Star. Thanks Burt. RIP.

Paul Wesley: Burt Reynolds was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever worked with. He took me under his wing when I was first starting out as an actor and offered friendship, advice and guidance. I’ll never forget how much that meant to me.

Michael Chiklis: I owe my career, at least in part, to the great Burt Reynolds. Heartbroken to learn of his passing. He was one of a kind. A fun loving, charismatic talent who did many good deeds quietly, without personal expectation but rather out of the kindness of his extraordinary heart. RIP.

May Burt Reynolds rest in peace.

 

 

THG

POETIC JUSTICE 110 – By Mshinaram Warigon Ahrey

teachers day

A TRIBUTE TO MY TEACHER

My teacher was my preacher

She’s a maverick mind polisher

With a mind to make minds richer

She taught me to be the reacher

I reached for the sleek sky

She gave me the wings to fly

She showed me the way high

She was my idol, I cannot lie

She made me the truth seeker

When I longed to be city slicker

At a time when my brain grew weaker

She gave the impetus to grow stronger

Her reward may be in heaven

With my eight I give her seven

My teacher, ever meeker

My mind molding bleacher

You’re such an inspiring creature

In my heart you’ll ever feature

©William Warigon 2018 . All rights reserved

teachers day.jpg 2

Madonna At 60: Don’t Write Her Off As An 80s Nostalgia Act, She Never Stopped Causing A Commotion Long may she reign.

With the Queen of Pop now celebrating her 60th birthday, it’s inevitable that we’re going to hear a lot about Madonna’s impact both in popular culture and beyond, as fans and voices in the media reflect on her career.

There’ll be memories shared about her early days on the music scene, the initial controversies she stirred up in the 1980s and the way she handled the global fame she was met with as soon as she debuted on MTV.

Similarly, there’ll be discussions about the ways she provocatively mixed themes of sexuality and religion, her boundary-pushing imagery in the early 1990s and how she opened the door for the current crop of female musicians to be more open and candid about their own sexualities.

Then, the more “serious” chat will come, as Madonna’s more critically-acclaimed works like ‘Ray Of Light’ and ‘American Life’ are picked apart, with modern critics keen to highlight how “slept on” and “underrated” the albums are, despite both of them getting a near-unanimous positive response upon their releases

And that’s where the retrospectives will stop. Because to a disappointingly large percentage of people, Madonna’s legacy stops shortly after the turn of the millennium, even though the woman herself has never stopped writing, recording or producing music, making cultural impact and moulding the global conversation in the process.

But don’t let this disappointing ageism – the type of which Madonna has borne the brunt of for around 15 years now – stand in the way of the truth, which is that Madonna’s latter-day offerings are every bit as important in revealing who she is as an artist, and a woman, than anything else she’s done in her career.

Take, for example, 2008’s ‘Hard Candy’, which celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. This is the album that’s often seen as the moment Madonna stopped setting trends and began chasing them, and there’s certainly no denying that the stamp of producers Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams and Timbaland is all over this release. But there’s also a lot there that’s quintessentially Madonna (and we don’t just mean the rhyming of “waiting” and “hesitating” on ‘4 Minutes’).

Before you’ve even heard a note of ‘Hard Candy’, you’re greeted with the image of the album artwork, showing Madonna in a leather-look leotard, legs spread, tongue exposed as she poses in a boxing championship belt in front of a candy-print backdrop.

The woman herself would tell you that this photo is about the “juxtaposition of hardness and sweetness” but, of course, the true message was clear – the Madonna of ‘Erotica’ and ‘Justify My Love’ and ‘Human Nature’ is still very much alive and well, and that won’t be changing just because she’s on the cusp of a new decade.

WARNER BROS
‘Hard Candy’

This is even more obvious when opening track ‘Candy Shop’ starts up, kicking off with the lines, “say which flavour you like and I’ll have it for you, come on into my store I’ve got candy galore”, and trust us, there’s plenty more where that came from.

“Don’t pretend you’re not hungry there’s plenty to eat”, she sings in the second verse, alongside lyrics like “you’ll be begging for more”, “my sugar is raw, sticky and sweet” and “I’ve got Turkish delight, baby, and so much more” (yeah, we’re still a bit confused by that last one a decade later, to be honest).

While she never mentions her age directly, Madonna has always been the master of showing and not telling, and her defiant message remains clear.

This is made more explicit (though, admittedly, with regards to her dancing abilities than her sexuality) on tracks like ‘Give It 2 Me’ and ‘Heartbeat’. Both songs are chock-full of references to her endurance and persistence, and while she’s using the thinly-veiled metaphor of the club to get her point across, it’s not hard to imagine what she really means when she sings: “Don’t stop me now, don’t need to catch my breath, I can go on and on and on. When the lights go down and there’s no one left I can go on and on and on.”

NICOLAS KHAYAT/ENIGMA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
Madonna on the second leg of her ‘Sticky & Sweet’ tour in 2009

Four years later, Madonna was in a rather different position when she released follow-up album ‘MDNA’. Having split from ex-husband Guy Ritchie, her relevancy was being called into question thanks to the meteoric rise of Lady Gaga, while fans were growing concerned when reports suggested she’d been focussing more heavily on her critically-panned film, ‘W.E.’ than her new studio album.

Despite this, the ‘MDNA’ album campaign got off to a flying start, thanks in no small part to Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime show, which at that time was the most-watched in history (pulling in more viewers than the game itself, not bad for a singer people had been saying was “past her best” for around a decade at that point) and serving to many as a reminder of what an incredible performance she is capable of delivering.

As for the album itself, ‘MDNA’ is Madonna’s most candid and confessional album since ‘Like A Prayer’ and ‘Ray Of Light’. She both lampoons her ex-husband on the furious ‘I Don’t Give A’ (which features a line from then-rapper-du-jour Nicki Minaj assuring listeners that “there’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, bitch”), but also takes her share of the blame for their break-up on the more pensive and reflective ‘I Fucked Up’ and ‘Best Friend’.

‘MDNA’ also features some of the more experimental tracks from Madonna’s recent back catalogue, from the swirling beats of ‘I’m Addicted’ and the deeply intense ‘Gang Bang’ to the melancholic ballads ‘Falling Free’ and ‘Masterpiece’, the latter of which bagged her a Golden Globe.

And even though single ‘Girl Gone Wild’ isn’t exactly her most innovative track musically, its accompanying sexually-charged music video sparked the same type of conversation that Madonna has always been at the centre of.

While her detractors passed judgement on her choice to still use imagery so unapologetically sexual in her music videos (despite this having been the case for almost her entire career), and her supporters pointing out that she was being deliberately subversive and making interesting points about gender and sexuality.

KEVIN MAZUR VIA GETTY IMAGES
Madonna in 2012, on the ‘MDNA’ tour

However, of the material released in the last 10 years, it’s 2015’s ‘Rebel Heart’ that best represents Madonna as an artist. At 19 tracks, it’s undeniably a little on the lengthy side, but this also allows us to see more sides than ever of a woman that has been in the spotlight for more than 30 years, but has always kept herself at arms’ length from her listeners.

It’s business as usual on opening track ‘Living For Love’, in which a hopeful Madonna insists she won’t let a break-up get her down over the top of a joyous dance beat, including a full gospel choir. Of course, the song took on a new meaning altogether at the 2015 Brit Awards, when the singer fell down a staircase during her show-closing performance, a moment the critics had their fun with, but ultimately proved what a professional Madonna is and always has been, “carrying on” as the song’s hook suggests and making it to the end of the performance triumphantly.

There’s more empowering self-assertion on tracks like ‘Iconic’, which opens with a bravado-heavy monologue from Mike Tyson, and the single ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’, featuring yet another guest rap from Nicki Minaj, who bigs up the Queen of Pop by using her name as an adjective to describe anything becoming of a boss.

RUNE HELLESTAD – CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES
Madonna’s performance of ‘Living For Love’ at the 2015 Brit Awards made headlines for all the wrong reasons

But while half the strength of ‘Rebel Heart’ is its reliance on the tropes that have made, and kept, Madonna a star all these years (the mix of sexuality and religion on ‘Holy Water’, the double meanings in ‘Body Shop’, the outright shamelessness of ‘S.E.X.’), the album shines most when Madonna is at her most vulnerable.

The star’s most celebrated works, ‘Ray Of Light’, ‘Like A Prayer’ and even ‘American Life’ have all been so popular because they allow us to hear Madonna singing about what really matters to her, the death of her mother, the end of her personal relationships and her fears for the world around her.

In between the aforementioned ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ and ‘Iconic’, ‘Rebel Heart’ allows us a glimpse of Madonna’s approach to her public persona and celebrity status on ‘Joan Of Arc’, where the singer admits she’s not always as tough as she appears.

“Each time they write a hateful word, dragging my soul into the dirt,” she sings, “I wanna die, I never admit it, but it hurts.”

Similarly, title track ‘Rebel Heart’ sees Madonna taking stock of her career in a way we’ve never heard before, looking back on the decisions that led her to where she is and admitting she “barely made out alive”.

ZAK KACZMAREK VIA GETTY IMAGES
Madonna leads a troupe of scantily-dressed nuns on the ‘Rebel Heart’ tour in 2016

It’s very easy, as Madonna reaches yet another age milestone, to write her off because she’s no longer setting the agenda musically, but to do so is doing one of the most exciting and significant stars of our time a disservice.

If people would be more open-minded, they’d see that in the last 10 years Madonna has continued to do what she’s always done: pushing the boundaries, breaking taboos and generally causing a commotion in the way that only she can.

And with a new album currently slated for later this year, which she recently revealed had been heavily inspired by her life in Lisbon, it doesn’t sound like she has plans to keep her head down as she enters her sixth decade.

Long may she reign.

By Daniel Welsh

Aretha Franklin Dead: The Touching Words Obama Had To Say After The Queen Of Soul Made Him Cry

The Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin has died aged 76 in her hometown of Detroit, but her legacy has left an impact across the entire globe.

In a career spanning 60 years she touched the hearts of every American, including several presidents.

But it was Aretha’s performance of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ at Kennedy Centre in 2015 that got to one US leader in particular.

In a touching moment that will long be remembered, President Obama shed a tear as Aretha sang at her piano.

Speaking about the moment, Obama did not hold back about how he felt about the soul legend.

He said: “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B. rock and roll – the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman’ she can move me to tears – the same way Ray Charles’s version of ‘America The Beautiful’ will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed – because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”

CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Aretha was friends with Barack Obama and George Bush Jr

One of of her’s and Obama’s career highlights was when she played at his presidential inauguration in 2009.

She said of it at the time: “My performance? Oh boy, what an honour. It’s all but overwhelming. I think that most people — not just African-Americans — are looking and hoping for some kind of change in America, having to do with all of the critical issues that (Obama) and his administration are going to have to address, like foreclosure, the economy (and) crime.

“But I think they’re going to be highly successful. You have such an intelligent, high-level-IQ group of people. Whatever can be done is going to be done. I believe that.”

As tributes for Aretha continue to pour in, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is just one of those who has tweeted.

“Mourning the loss today of Aretha Franklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world,” she wrote.

“She deserves not only our respect but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend.”

Hillary Clinton

@HillaryClinton

Mourning the loss today of @ArethaFranklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world. She deserves not only our RESPECT but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend.