Sunday, October 4, 2009

Outsider Book of the Month- October 09 e-issue #4 Beloved by Toni Morrison

Outsider Book of the Month- October 09 e-issue #4 Beloved by Toni Morrison
Review by Nickolas Cook

In this 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel BELOVED Toni Morrison does the impossible by making brutality and guilt seem almost beautiful. It is a gut wrenching read, filled with grim moments of damn near unbearable violence, but leaves you feeling haunted by its prose and characters.
Paul D, freed slave, has been searching for years for Sethe, a woman who had once been part of a slave household with him, and when he finally finds her, he discovers she has been ostracized by her neighbors because her house is seemingly haunted by a malevolent ghost which has crippled the dog and chased away her sons, leaving her alone to raise her mentally retarded daughter, Denver. As he tries to enter the house, Paul D is confronted by the angry invisible spirit that has been wrecking havoc on the house and he manages to chase it away with violence and shouting. The house returns to normal and they settle in to begin a romantic and harmonious relationship. But soon they are visited by a young woman named Beloved, who appears seemingly out of nowhere and with no memory as to how she came to them.
But Sethe already suspects she knows Beloved’s origins.
Paul D is slowly eked out of the picture by Beloved’s intrusive and strange presence and leaves the house, while Denver becomes more and more enamored by the young woman.
Again, we find the house is haunted—not by intangible spirits now, but by a remembered act of violence that Beloved cannot forgive and Sethe cannot forget. How Sethe must find redemption for her act is the crux of the story and its final denouement will leave you teary eyed.
This period piece of fiction skirts the borders of pure horror story, giving us ghosts, both spiritually and figuratively. At times it is perhaps only the ghost of slavery, “that peculiar institution” as our forefathers likes to refer to it, and at times it is a straight up haunted house/ghost story.
There’s no doubt that Morrison has one of the best writing styles in the world--part poetry, part prose, and very powerful stuff. She knows her characters with frightening intimacy and translates that to the written page with a deceptively simplistic ease. But she also tackles many acts of violence, sexual, physical and mental, and pulls no punches. BELOVED is a book that deserves every accolade its received over the years and it is a must for any self-respecting horror reader. Its subtlety and dark power will enthrall and frighten, enlighten and educate.

--Nickolas Cook