I Think of Beauty as an Absolute Necessity

Toni Morrison? Claudia Brodsky Lacour? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The theme of beauty is pivotal within the novels written by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. She once stated that beauty was an absolute necessity. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: In 2019 “The Paris Review” published a podcast that included an audio recording of Toni Morrison delivering the quotation. The podcast included the following description of the source of the audio: 1

. . . excerpts from our interview with Toni Morrison conducted by Claudia Brodsky Lacour in Morrison’s office at Princeton University sometime in 1992.

The following inquiry and response occurred during the interview. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

Claudia Brodsky Lacour: Your novels are known for their extraordinary beauty. The beauty of their language and their inclusion of beauty as part of life. How do you handle beauty in fiction.

Toni Morrison: This is something that has preoccupied me for a long time. I think of beauty as an absolute necessity. I don’t think it’s a privilege or an indulgence, it’s not even a quest. I think it’s almost like knowledge, which is to say, it’s what we were born for.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Think of Beauty as an Absolute Necessity

Notes:

  1. 2019 October 23, The Paris Review Podcast, Episode 13: “Before the Light”, Podcast Season 2, Interview conducted by Claudia Brodsky Lacour of Toni Morrison, (Description occurs at 3 minutes 10 seconds of 35 minutes 51 seconds), The Paris Review, New York. (Accessed theparisreview.org on June 17, 2020) link
  2. 2019 October 23, The Paris Review Podcast, Episode 13: “Before the Light”, Podcast Season 2, Interview conducted by Claudia Brodsky Lacour of Toni Morrison, (Question occurs at 5 minutes 46 seconds of 35 minutes 51 seconds), The Paris Review, New York. (Accessed podcast at theparisreview.org on June 17, 2020) link

If You Find a Book You Really Want To Read But It Hasn’t Been Written Yet, Then You Must Write It

Toni Morrison? Benjamin Disraeli? Mickey Spillane? C. S. Lewis? J. R. R. Tolkien? Janet Fitch? Ann Patchett? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent American editor, writer, and educator Toni Morrison who authored the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved” has been credited with an exhilarating remark about the creative process:

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

I have not been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1981 Toni Morrison spoke at the annual meeting of the Ohio Arts Council, and “The Cincinnati Enquirer” reported some of her comments. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Writing to me is an advanced and slow form of reading. If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

“It took me a long time to do a short book; a long time to leave the world of language and the building up and shaping of the book, but once it began to float I knew I could not not do it . . .

Morrison’s original phrasing differed slightly from the popular modern version of the quotation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Find a Book You Really Want To Read But It Hasn’t Been Written Yet, Then You Must Write It

Notes:

  1. 1981 September 27, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Writing Is Third Career For Morrison by Ellen Brown (Entertainment Reporter), Quote Page F11, Column 1, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)