The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

Knopf. Feb. 2019. 384p. bibliog. ISBN 9780525521037. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525521112. LIT
Nobel Prize-winning novelist Morrison (Beloved; Song of Solomon) presents a rich collection of essays from 1976 to 2013, primarily speeches given at college convocations, lectures series, conferences, commencement addresses, and symposiums, among other occasions. Topics vary, reflecting the intellectual curiosity and pursuits of the author. As in any collection of this sort, not every selection is outstanding; there are repetitions that call upon readers to skim those pieces less memorable. But for every instance of sameness in topic there are many entries that are educational, revelatory, and enlightening. Morrison is a master of the luminous thought, of the sense of outrage or compassion that makes readers feel as if they are in the presence of an author who deeply cares about literature and the themes that engage her. Topics include the author developing the openings of her novels and deciding what tone or turn of phrase was the perfect vehicle to convey her insights about humanity. Other themes address racism and fascism, the importance of advocacy for the arts, the heritage of slavery, and especially Morrison's tributes to Martin Luther King Jr., writers James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, and William Faulkner, and artist Romare Bearden.
VERDICT Essential for Morrison readers who wish to supplement their appreciation of her achievements with her thoughts on American life and literature. Highly recommended.
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