Today I had an advance copy of Toni Morrison's new book, A Mercy, in my hand. My first thought was "Great." I've read quite a bit of her work. Although I tend to find her uneven, she is unequaled in the excruciatingly painful, powerful moment: the ending of The Bluest Eye, the origin of the Beloved title. I stopped in my tracks.
I just recently came across a paean to Fidel Castro by Ms. Morrison. It occurred to me that I am supposed to feel sorrow for her people; all her fiction is constructed around that notion. Yet she shows no such consideration for mine. In fact, she extols the oppressor of my people. So thanks, but no thanks.
But then that isn't fair. In my heart, I believe that Ms. Morrison is misguided, because she is misinformed. She has fallen prey, as have many others, to the pretty picture of healthcare and education and equality painted by the dictatorship. And who is to disabuse her? Leftist professors, scholars who use only Cuban government sources, teachers trained by Bill Ayers, journalists who do not believe a singly word uttered by the Bush administration but swallow whole reams of propaganda put out by the junta? Don't take my word for it. Here's a clue, Ms. Morrison, how many AfroCuban faces are there in the ranks of the rulers? What color are some of the most famous political prisoners and dissidents? Those are less than pretty pictures.
On a more pleasurable front, The Eight by Katherine Neville has been reissued, doubtless as the result of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and the publication of a sequel, Fire, available this week. For those who haven't read the original, published twenty years ago,the plot centers on Charlemagne's chess set, which is a bit more than it would seem. In Fire, the story is continued with the daughter of the original characters. It's on my list. The first one was quite good.
New entries on the horizon include a new Jonathan Kellerman, Nelson DeMille, Jeffrey Deaver, Clive Cussler, and Patricia Cornwell. Some of these franchises are getting a bit worn, but like old friends, I'll welcome them anyway.