beautiful horror

two words: thick love

I am reluctant to post on Beloved. It signals moving on…

I gobbled up Beloved over two nights, then downloaded Toni Morrison’s own incredible reading on my iPod and am now on my second listen. It is not enough. I could drink from this cup of horrific beauty the way Beloved did when she first came out of the water, endlessly.

Every word in Beloved competes for power, beauty and devastation. Sethe’s story is harrowing, but the telling of it, magnificent. Beloved proves,

the difference
poetry and
prose is


If Toni Morrison centred the page alignment and added random line breaks, this extraordinary novel would become an extraordinary poem, it is just so beautifully written.

choke cherry tree

Beloved‘s apposition of beauty and horror, in style and content, is pervasive: Sweet Home, a shamelessly lush patch of earth with stunning sycamore trees – is a slave plantation that hangs  and torches dissident slaves from said sycamore trees – it is “fire and brimstone, but hidden in lacy groves.” p.6; “it makes you wonder if hell is a pretty place too.”

Sethe’s  horrific scars from a merciless whipping are her choke cherry tree and “the decorative work of an ironsmith too passionate for display” p.17, not just dead skin on her back, or testament of unspeakable cruelty.

And Sethe loves her four children with a ‘thick love’. But she tries to murder each of them, succeeding with one, Beloved.

This is not a spoiler. We’re given this information in the blurb, if not Chapter 1. This story is about what happens before and after, as well as the moment Sethe takes to her children with a hacksaw.

Sethe, a 19 year old slave woman heavily pregnant with her fourth child, drags herself out of hell to escape Sweet Home. She is beaten, broken, swollen and near death, but she is free. Finally free! To love Howard, Buglar, Beloved ‘crawling already?’ and the newborn, Denver, because they can’t be “hanged, rented out, loaned out, bought up, brought back, stored up, mortgaged, won, stolen or seized.” p.23 Free.

For 28 days. After which the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride up to 124, having tracked Sethe down. She doesn’t run, or hide or offer herself up. She does the unthinkable, the incomprehensible.

So: How do you keep living after killing your own baby? How do you keep breathing after you’ve cut your own baby’s throat? Not well, especially if there is a powerful connection with the afterlife. Mysticism further inspires the lyrical beauty spread thick throughout the text and demands eager rereads, as Beloved’s ghost sets up ‘a mighty haunt’.

Is this killing something you can ever understand, forgive, justify? Is Beloved real, or is Sethe suffering from  a psychotic break? Will Sethe ever be rid of the ghost of her beloved?

Beloved is a story of love, of the unloved. It will break your heart. It will heal your heart.

toni morrison

Toni Morrison is a poet in weak dissemble. She uses her breathtaking scope of word, imagination and passion to tell the story too few tell, and too few want to hear; of the Sixty Million and More who died in the slave trade, and of the ones who survive, so beautifully. So beautifully.

anyone’s ghost-the national
strange fruit-nina simone
i loves you porgy-nina simone

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