Why Is Beloved Beloved?
After all the plaudits, it's time to look at the novel's merits.
By Stephen Metcalf
Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006, at 2:42 PM ET
In 1987, Toni Morrison's Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1992, with Beloved still widely regarded as her masterpiece, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Three legs make a stool: This past month, in a New York Times poll of 200 critics, writers, and editors, Beloved was named "the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years," beating out novels by such luminaries as Roth, DeLillo, and Updike. I participated in this survey and can attest that, from the moment the solicitously hand-typed letter from the Times Book Review arrived in the mail, Beloved was the presumptive winner........
Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large. He is working on a book about the 1980s.