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Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ Voted Best Work of American Fiction in Past 25 Years


At the beginning of this year, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review sent a letter to a few hundred writers, editors, publishers, critics, editors, and others in the literary fold asking them to name "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years."


May 12, 2006
 Toni Morrison’s Beloved won, followed by runners-up Underworld by Don DeLillo, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels by John Updike, and American Pastoral by Philip Roth. 

Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1933 has a B.A. from Howard University and an M.A. from Cornell University.  She has taught at Texas Southern University, Howard University, State University of New York at Albany and at Princeton.

Her first novel The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. She followed with Sula in 1973, Song of Solomon in 1977, Tar Baby in 1981, Beloved in 1987, Jazz in 1992 and Paradise in 1998. Beloved won a Pulitzer Prize; Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

“Beloved was inspired by the true story of a African American slave woman, Margaret Garner. She escaped with her husband Robert from a Kentucky plantation, and sought refuge in Ohio. When the slave masters overcame them, she killed her baby, after the infamous 1850s Fugitive Slave Act, in order to save the child from the slavery she had managed to escape. Morrison later told that "I thought at first it couldn't be written, but I was annoyed and worried that such a story was inaccessible to art."

The film version of the book from 1998 was directed by Jonathan Demme, who used much special effects and was interested in the horror aspects. Oprah Winfrey portrayed Sethe [the protagonist]; she had optioned the book rights immediately after its publication.

Three writers worked on the script: Akosua Busia, Richard LaGravenese, and Adam Brooks. ‘If ever a film was burdened under the strain of its own portentousness, it is Beloved. Even the music by composer Rachel Portman, dominated by an interminably moaning solo voice, is mired in its own sincerity.

As for Winfrey, it was an unabashed labor of love, and she threw all the resources of her television programs and her international celebrity into its promotion’ (from Novels into Film by John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh, 1999).”

c. Books and Writers (2003).  Retrieved May 11, 2006 from

For more information see The New York Times Book Review.



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