On the surface, the novel Beloved seems like literature that makes us more aware of the brutality of slavery — the physical and emotional abuses, the violence, and the dehumanization. It is, all of these, of course, but I think that what sets Toni Morrison’s novel apart, and what has earned her the well-deserved international acclaim she has achieved, is that she goes deeper, to really get under our skin, as it were. For me, reading Beloved made me acutely aware of the color of my skin. This is perhaps as good as it gets, when it comes to fiction writing, because Beloved forces the reader to confront themselves in relation to skin color and in relation to the brutality of racism, both past and present. Morrison does all this simpy by being a great writer, by putting the reader there, right there in the middle of it all.
I finished the first installment of David Sedaris’ diaries a few months back. I would only recommend it to the most rabid of Sedaris fanatics. After all, they are, in fact, the Sedaris diaries. They are not categorized by subject or topic — there’s no attempt to add a coherent theme or an organizing principle of any sort. It’s just the Sedaris diaries, which for most would be uninteresting, perhaps a form of torture, even; but if you want to know the life of Sedaris and get an even better sense of his writing process, then it’s worthwhile. I had a good deal of fun with it, listening to Sedaris himself narrate the audiobook. I also stumbled across a short six-minute video, linked below, of Sedaris discussing the diaries. In the vid he tosses out a few bits of writerly wisdom.