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Toni Morrison is back

November 9, 2008 |  9:36 am

Tonimorrison_1109 It's been five years since Pulitzer Prize-winner and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison last released a new novel. But on Tuesday, she returns with "A Mercy," and she's making the rounds to spread the word about her new book.

"A Mercy" is set in the 1680s: "I was trying to imagine what it felt like to be an enslaved girl when race was not the point," she tells the Financial Times. In a short clip on Amazon.com, she says that, in that time, "there was no particular shame attached to being a slave." In interviews with the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, she explains that, instead of race, the real divider in the world of "A Mercy" is religion.

The Wall Street Journal asked if she'd read John Updike's review in the New Yorker (beware: spoilers), which the paper called "not particularly kind." Morrison gamely responds, "I like reviews written by writers and he is a writer. I thought he recognized some of the merits of my book and he may have been misreading others, but that's just a regular reading response." An excerpt of the book is available at the Wall Street Journal now.

Morrison likes her books to be heard in a certain way and reads for her own audiobooks. "You rely on a sentence to say more than the denotation and the connotation; you revel in the smoke that the words send up," she told the Financial Times. A video of her reading from "A Mercy" is after the jump.

Toni Morrison comes to L.A. on Nov. 19, where she will be interviewed by Times books editor David L. Ulin. Though her appearance is listed as sold out, the ALOUD reading series notes that standby tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. As always, the tickets for ALOUD are free.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

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