This house where I sit, a few white clouds framed by my window, is in Provincetown in Cape Cod, and belonged to Norman Mailer. It’s now been turned into a writers’ colony. Every year, during the summer, writers gather here. I have been teaching a workshop on finding your voice on the page.
A book that I read recently, and which represents the achievement of voice, is Toni Morrison’s latest novel, Home. A short novel, hardly 150 pages long, it is the distillation of a lifetime of writing practice. Here is a voice that records violence in brief, brutal detail, and then, in a testament to human survival, finds honey in the rock.
Frank Money is Morrison’s protagonist in Home. He has survived, if only barely, the Korean War and come back to his segregated motherland. Each page reveals the shock of living in a society built on the exploitation of blacks. Reading the book at a time when the White House is occupied by a black president further heightens the pain of these discoveries instead of assuaging it. And yet, as steady as the cruel blows, are the comforts of community. The strength of conscience. The tender spark of love.