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Tar Baby Paperback – June 8, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Deeply perceptive. . . . Return[s] risk and mischief to the contemporary American novel.” —John Irving, The New York Times Book Review

“Toni Morrison has made herself into the D. H. Lawrence of the black psyche, transforming individuals into forces, idiosyncrasy into inevitability.” —New York

“Arresting images, fierce intelligence, poetic language . . . One becomes entranced by Toni Morrison’s story.” —The Washington Post

“Wrenchingly good. A terrific book.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Hypnotic, stunningly alive.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune

“That rare commodity, a truly public novel. . . . Morrison’s genius lies in her uncanny ability to immerse you totally in the world she creates.” —Newsweek

“Powerful. . . . A stunning performance. . . . Morrison is one of the most exciting living American writers.” —Kansas City Star

“It takes one to the sheer edge of human relationships.” —Vogue

“Wise, beautiful, astonishing, absolutely breathtaking.” —St. Louis Globe-Democrat

“Reminds us again that Toni Morrison is one of the finest writers in America today.” —Louisville Courier-Journal

Tar Baby is stupendous. Morrison is a writer of amazing skill.” —Roanoke Times & World

“Its scope is grand and the interplay complex. But Morrison has the control of a skilled choreographer, with a careful eye pinned on pacing, suspense, grace, and frenzy. . . . She has an awesome lyric flair.” —The Charlotte Observer

From the Inside Flap

Ravishingly beautiful and emotionally incendiary, Tar Baby" is Toni Morrison's reinvention of the love story. Jadine Childs is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend, and a coat made out of ninety perfect sealskins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loathes and desires. As Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the deep South, she charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400033446
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400033447
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
One of the things that's often hard in reading other readers' responses to an author that you absolutely adore (and I am an avid Morrison fan) is preparing for the types of reviews that often try to invalidate her or dismiss her because her writing demands so much from us. Yet, I believe her Nobel prize speaks for itself (even for all those who were "forced" into reading her for a class or seminar -or even because Oprah said so), so when others "trash" her, my disgust is not in their inability to appreciate her but in a recurring trend that continues to prove that our mass-media, TV-dominated culture has produced a generation of readers (and I use the term loosely) who no longer appreciate reading a book for the sheer pleasure of how the written language comes together and how an author like Morrison blends both oral culture and myths with written text.
And, folks, you really need that appreciation if you're going to get into a novel like Tar Baby. I believe some very basic knowledge needs to be in place. A) Some knowledge of the African American folktale of the tar baby and Brer Rabbit B.) Some knowledge of the biblical story of Adam and Eve and how religious doctrine has traditionally interpreted it. C.) Some understanding of the "trickster" (and this novel is filled with this figure) tradition in both American and African lore--who is tricked, who's doing the tricking and what is the overall "trick": colonialism? male-female relations? race relations?
I believe that once we recover much of the traditions that someone like Morrison has been exposed to (from the Bible to the blues to Faulkner to Zora Neale Hurston), her novels can be read with some appreciation and respect. . . and love.
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Format: Paperback
"Tar Baby" may not be the most celebrated of Toni Morrison's many memorable novels, but, in my opinion, it's the most fun. Much of the story takes place at the Caribbean mansion of white millionaire Valerian Street. Morrison weaves a deliciously nasty psychodrama involving Street, his flaky wife, the Street's black servants, and Jadine, a young black woman who is niece to the servants and who has been educated thanks to Valerian's money. Into this mix Morrison tosses Son, a dreadlocked black man with a dangerous edge.
"Tar Baby" is a frequently outrageous satire of racial identity, sexual politics, consumer culture, class consciousness, and family dysfunctionality. Her cast of characters is colorfully warped in an almost Dickensian manner. Particularly interesting is the portrait of Jadine, the black wunderkind beloved by her wealthy white patrons; I think of her as a whorish postmodern parody of early African-American poet Phillis Wheatley.
As always, Morrison's writing is marked by passages of poetic power and grace. Check out, for example, this marvelous description of Son's hair: "Wild, aggressive, vicious hair that needed to be put in jail. Uncivilized, reform-school hair. Mau Mau, Attica, chain gang hair."
Ultimately, I read "Tar Baby" as a comic tragedy of people trapped in a complex web of racial, sexual, and economic mythologies. Profane, thought-provoking, ironic, and rich in scathing humor, this novel is ample proof of Toni Morrison's writerly talent.
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By A Customer on December 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
In Tar Baby, Valerian Street, a wealthy white candy mogul, suffers some devastating role reversals. This situation has nothing to do with "political correctness" but rather the truth of the fact that no one can mastermind and counterfeit a reality forever. Valerian cannot grow Pennsylvania plants in L'Isle de Chevaliers any more than he can recreate the racial, economic, and sexual hierarchy that existed there. This point is not "a rip-off from real life" as one amazon.com reviewer described it. Nor is it, to my mind, her most profound. I agree that _Beloved_ soars higher.
I think the "trick" to reading Morrison is reading at your own level. I read many of her books as a young teenager and enjoyed them merely for their plots. I liked them because the people were fascinating and the suspense was real. Morrison hadn't won the Nobel or been championed by Oprah Winfrey, so I didn't have her reputation to contend with. And I didn't feel that my intelligence or sophistication depended on understanding her every word. So if I couldn't understand something, I moved on with the story. Now that I am in college, and an English major, I understand much more of Morrison's art as I re-read the novels of my adolescence. However, if I don't understand the significance of some image or passage, I let it go. Then I talk to someone about it. One cannot read Morrison's academic and artistic novels any other way. Although it doesn't have to be drudgery, Morrison's books are meant to be "studied" (which is just a fancy way of saying "discussed"). If you are intimidated by the Morrison mystique, I recommend leaving one's ego at the door when entering Morrison's world. Then, I recommend talking to someone more familiar with Morrison's work before you cast her books aside.
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