(Emma Brockes’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/13.)

I first met Toni Morrison about 15 years ago, to talk about her seventh novel, Paradise, an encounter I remember largely for its number of terrifying pauses. Morrison, in her late 60s then, was at the height of her powers, a Nobel laureate with a famously low tolerance for journalists and critics, and a personal style as distinctive as her prose: silver dreadlocks, sharp, unwavering eye contact and a manner of speech – when she did speak – that, to her annoyance, people were wont to call poetry.

Now she sits in her publisher's office in New York, the city laid out beneath her. She looks as grand as ever, but there have been changes. It is right after lunch when, says Morrison, she is accustomed to napping. Guiltily?

"Not any more! At 81, I don't feel guilty about anything." (As she will explain, she appears here in role as Toni Morrison, as distinct from Chloe Wofford, her birth name and real self.) "So there!" Throughout the afternoon she is gloriously, unexpectedly giddy.


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