This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
Jazz, by Toni Morrison, 1992
reviewed by MC17
MIM Notes, Issue 69: October, 1992

Jazz, Toni Morrison's latest book, will not disappoint her fans. In her fast-paced narrative style, Morrison continues to write captivating novels wound around the everyday life and history of Blacks in America.

There is much historical significance in this novel that a reader unfamiliar with its setting will miss. This review will proceed directly to the politics of the plot that people (such as this reviewer) from this uninformed perspective can glean.

Set in New York City in 1926, the novel centers on the lives of a married couple, Joe and Violet. Joe is one of the few faithful men in his neighborhood - - until he has an affair with the 18-year-old Dorcas. Fearing he will lose her, Joe kills Dorcas, making his already suffering marriage intolerable.

But Morrison's story is not one of sensational infidelity and sex. Instead she explores the effect that individuals' upbringing and history have on their everyday lives and relationships. "Jazz" is a novel about people who take control of their lives, overcoming the passivity that could keep them slaves to their environment and history. Morrison celebrates the ability of two people who turn their relationship and their lives around.

Morrison notes Blacks' well-founded fear of white people, the hypocritical but popular rigid religious morality, and the eroticization of male power taught by society -- all integral parts of Black urban life in the 1920s and very relevant today.

Dorcas has left Joe for a man closer to her age who tells her what to do, making her change everything from the way she laughs to the way she dresses. Joe just wanted Dorcas to do whatever made her happy, and Dorcas decides that the young man must like her more because he cares enough to tell her what to do. Best of all, other women want to have him too.

While most of her characters are unwilling to learn new ways to live and take control of their lives, Morrison's main characters change their lives against strong social pressure. This personal revolution falls a bit short of the social revolution that MIM might conclude its novels with, but it has the correct materialist understanding that people create history and need not be pawns to passing circumstances.

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