“We die. That may be the meaning of life,” Toni Morrison pronounced in her 1993 lecture for the Nobel Prize in Literature. “But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Morrison, a writer who measured life more precisely and profoundly than any other, died at age 88 on Monday night. She published her first book, “The Bluest Eye,” at 39, after years working as a book editor focused on publishing great, often underrecognized, black writers. In the decades that followed she produced masterpiece after masterpiece: “Sula,” “Song of Solomon,” “Tar Baby,” “Beloved” ― eleven novels in all, along with numerous essays, books of history and criticism, a smattering of plays and poems, a handful of children’s books. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize for “Beloved.” In 1993, when she was awarded her Nobel Prize, she became the first black woman to receive the award in any category.