Many years ago, when I was a student in college one of my English Professors, Louis Simpson (A Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet) assigned the class James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” to read and write an essay on. The final part of the essay had to do with why you liked the book or didn’t like the book. I thought about the question and was ready to come up with the usual reasons why I liked the book and then I decided I’m not going to do that. It was my last year in college and the grade I received for the class really didn’t matter to me. In answer to the question I wrote, “I loved this book. It might very well be the greatest book I have ever read. I don’t know why, but while reading this book I just felt like I was reading a great work of literature, something better and beyond anything I have ever read.” Mr. Simpson loved my answer and I was shocked but over the years I came to realize why he loved my answer.
Since that time I have read many great books, but only a handful that left me feeling like Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”, Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Hemingways’ “The Sun Also Rises,” Baldwin’s “Another Country,” Byron’s “Don Juan,” and now I can add to that list Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
Ms. Morrison’s book transcends greatness and enters that rarefied stratosphere of the sublime, heavenly, and magical. “Beloved” is a masterful work of art that should be read by anyone who aspires to be a writer or a teacher. It is like DaVinci’s “The Last Supper.” It reaches into the past, depicting the brutality of slavery, while its relevance remains even more powerful in the society we now live in, and like Yeats’ wrote, “Neither time, nor place, nor art have moved it.” It lives forever.