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Sandra Newman on Toni Morrison

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sandra Newman takes issue with the misattribution of platitudes to Toni Morrison in the wake of the author’s death:

Toni Morrison didn’t win the Nobel Prize for dispensing banal platitudes; she got it for writing scabrous, gorgeous, complex books like Song of Solomon. It is not only disrespectful to her, it is unhealthy for us to sand down her words until they tell us what we want to hear — not least because Toni Morrison had real wisdom to impart. This is especially true when we include implications with which she publicly disagreed. For instance, the problem with [Senator Kamala] Harris’ [retweeting a misattribution of] “Something that is loved is never lost” is not just that Morrison didn’t say it, but that Morrison’s work is explicitly about how, through the bad choices of the powerful, people can lose everything they love, and this loss can echo through generations. Multiply this distortion by all the authors who were ever memorialized with massaged, out-of-context quotes, and it begins to seem less like an honoring of literature than an Orwellian campaign to erase its influence.