In the afterglow of a clean triumph—her widely celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, Beloved—Toni Morrison moves to even higher ground. This, her eagerly awaited new novel, Jazz, is spellbinding for the haunting passion of its profound love story, and for the bittersweet lyricism and refined sensuality of its powerful and elegant style.
It is winter, barely three days into 1926, seven years after Armistice; we are in the scintillating City, around Lenox Avenue, "when all the wars are over and there will never be another one...At last, at last, everything's ahead...Here comes the new. Look out. There goes the sad stuff. The bad stuff. The things-nobody-could-help stuff." But amid the euphoric decisiveness, a tragedy ensues among people who had train-danced into the City, from points south and west, in search of promise.
Joe Trace—in his fifties, door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, erstwhile devoted husband—shoots to death his lover of three months, impetuous, eighteen-year-old Dorcas (“Everything was like a picture show to her”). At the funeral, his determined, hard-working wife, Violet, herself a hairdresser—who is given to stumbling into dark mental cracks, and who talks mostly to birds—tries with a knife to disfigure the corpse.
In a dazzling act of jazz-like improvisation, moving seamlessly in and out of past, present, and future, a mysterious voice—whose identity is a matter of each reader's imagination—weaves this brilliant fiction, at the same time showing how its blues are informed by the brutal exigencies of slavery. Richly combining history, legend, reminiscence, this voice captures as never before the ineffable mood, the complex humanity, of black urban life at a moment in our century we assumed we understood.
Jazz is an unprecedented and astonishing invention, a landmark on the American literary landscape—a novel unforgettable and for all time.
WINNER 1993 - Nobel Prize
WINNER - New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
WINNER - ALA Best Books for Young Adults
One of the most celebrated writers of our time, Toni Morrison has become a distinctive literary voice in the 20th Century, and her works have become essential reading in the body of contemporary American fiction.
Toni Morrison was appointed Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University in the Spring of 1989.
Ms. Morrison has degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities. Among the universities where she has held teaching posts are Yale, Bard College and Rutgers. The New York State Board of Regents appointed her to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany in 1984, a post she held until 1989. In 1988 she was the Obert C. Tanner Lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Professor at Syracuse University. In 1990 she delivered the Clark lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Massey Lectures at Harvard University.
Her six major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz, have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer prize for Beloved. Both novels were chosen as the main selections for the Book-of-the-Month Club, in 1977 and 1987 respectively. Her books of essays include Playing in the Dark, and her edited collection Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality.
Her first play, Dreaming Emmett, was commissioned by the New York State Writers Institute of the State University of New York (1985). Meeting with favorable reviews, it drew audiences throughout New York and the entire Tri-State area.
Honey and Rue, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Kathleen Battle, with lyrics by Toni Morrison and music by Andre Previn, premiered in January 1992.
Ms. Morrison has received honorary degrees from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, Dartmouth, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia, Brown, the University of Michigan, and Universite Paris 7-Denis Diderot. She was also the first recipient of the Washington College Literary Award in 1987 and was New York State Governor's Arts Awardee in 1986.
Other prestigious awards include: the Modern Language Association of America Commonwealth Award in Literature, 1989; Sara Lee Corporation Front Runner Award in Arts, 1989; Anisfield Wolf Book Award in Race Relations, 1988; the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature in 1978; and the Distinguished Writer Award of 1978 from the American Academy of Art and Letters.
She was a senior editor at Random House for twenty years.
Toni Morrison is a founding member of the Academie Universelle Des Cultures (at the Louvre, Paris), a Trustee of the New York Public Library, a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a member of the Author's Guild where she served on the Guild Council and as Foundation Treasurer. She served on the National Council of The Arts for six years and is a member of the Africa Watch and Helsinki Watch Committees on Human Rights.
In 1993 Ms. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.