I took one creative writing class last semester just because I figured I’d give it a try, so in no way am I an expert in creative writing. I just remember that I learned “Form is never more than an expression of content.” It made me think about how Toni Morrison uses the structure of the novel to write and how important that is for the messages she tries to get across. I think that novels give her enough space to create multiple characters, giving multiple perspectives which emphasize the necessity of varying interpretations, instead of relying on “the single story.”In doing a little bit of research, I found out that Toni Morrison wrote one short story entitled “Recitatif” in 1983. I couldn’t find it online so I ordered it from IDS and for that reason I can’t share the link with you all. It centers around these two girls, Roberta and Twyla, who share a room in an orphanage, even though both of their mothers are alive. The girls are of different races, yet Morrison never differentiates explicitly which one is black and which one is white. Without explaining the entire story, the two girls spend 4 months together and then live their separate lives, but end up meeting multiple times as adults. Morrison’s goal was to make their races unclear, even though as characters their racial identity was important.
It’s an interesting story and sometimes I worry that short stories don’t give the author enough time to develop characters and plots enough to create profound meaning, but I think good authors like Toni Morrison can make the short story work well. (**Ari, if you’re reading this I also thought your short story for your fiction class was also really good and worked well- I’m not just hating on short stories in general!!) However, I think it’s really interesting that she only has published one short story. If we had more time in class I think it would have been cool to have had a discussion on why Morrison chooses to write novels.
I urge you all to read “Recitatif” if you are interested in Morrison, which I really do think many of you are. Maybe you guys can find a more accessible version of the short story. It’s interesting to think about in association with her other works we read this semester.