*Toni Morrison gave folks a pleasant surprise Thursday night as she accepted a lifetime achievement award in Manhattan.
The author received the prestigious $25,000 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction from the PEN American Center, then, treated the hundreds of invited guests to an excerpt from her novel in progress.
Sharing a few lines from the opening section, narrated by a mute, Morrison read: “Ma said I was born without a voice box. Box. Couldn’t you buy one? Anyway, being speechless doesn’t mean I can’t hear. I hear everything — everything.”
The ceremony, billed as “Dangerous Work: An Evening With Toni Morrison,” was a 90-minute tribute to the author’s ideas and to the music of her language, noted Page Six. The evening took place at the New School auditorium in Manhattan with performances from mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran and her husband, composer-pianist Jason Moran, and readings by actors Adepero Oduye and Delroy Lindo.
Oduye recalled when she, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, read “The Bluest Eye” as a girl and thought of the book as the first to give “voice to thoughts and feelings” that were really hers.
“I was, in a way, freed,” said Oduye, whose film credits include “The Big Short” and “Twelve Years a Slave.”
The 85-year-old Morrison, eyes looking out from under a wide-brimmed hat, spoke of how “meaningful” each of her books were, like children to whom she had given birth.