Books: Paradise Found

The Nobel Prize changed Toni Morrison's life but not her art, as her new novel proves

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She has lived alone since her marriage broke up in 1964. "I considered marrying again, on several occasions," she says. "But I decided against it for two reasons. I didn't want to give up the delight of not having to answer to another person, and I was worried about how my two boys would react to a stepfather." Those sons are in their 30s, one an architect and the other a painter and musician; one of them produced Morrison's first grandchild, now 10.

Although her professional responsibilities--to Princeton, her publisher, her public--are heavy, Morrison insists that "my personal life is most unexciting, and I like it like that." She sees a small group of friends occasionally and reads all the time. "Reading is splendid." She also gardens at the house in the country, "pot gardening, now mostly flowers. There have been mornings when I've gone into my greenhouse at sunrise, and the next time I checked it was noon."

Paradise? She laughs at the question. "It's not my place to define paradise for anyone else. That, in one way, is what the new novel is saying. It's not anyone's place to do that. But I'll confess my idea of what paradise would be for me. Nine days of seclusion, total seclusion. No obligations, no demands, nothing but doing anything I wanted, when I wanted." She pauses, perhaps considering the duties she faces in the coming weeks. "I've had four or five days, but never nine. Not yet." Heaven must wait.

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