NEW YORK (AP) — Novelist Toni Morrison, speaking Wednesday to dozens of Google employees holding laptops and smartphones, shared her vision for how she would turn the search engine leader into a literary character.
“It’s like a big, metal, claw-y machine in ‘Transformers,'” she said, to much laughter, during a lunchtime gathering at Google’s Manhattan offices. “When they’re threatened, they turn into a little radio, they turn into a little car. And then after you pass them by they come up again.
“They can be anything and everything.”
The 82-year-old Nobel laureate was the latest, and most literary in memory, of a long line of famous guests from Stephen Colbert to Lady Gaga who since 2005 have dropped in on Google Inc. in New York and the home offices in Mountain View, Calif. After her talk, she stayed on to take questions online, part of Google’s “Hangout” series.
Morrison, battling the flu and sniffling through much of the afternoon, was promoting the paperback edition of her novel “Home,” published last year. But she also chatted about technology, teaching and creativity.
Most of the attendees were young enough to be her grandchildren, and she clearly enjoyed startling them with candid talk about what she likes in literature (please don’t bore her with stories about dating) and about how to use sex in fiction. The first lesson: Forget “boobs and butts.”
“When you write about physical attraction, someone falling in love, or making love, it’s just so relentlessly boring,” she said.
“So why don’t you do something different? When I wrote ‘Beloved’ I had these guys watching Sethe (the main character) in a cornfield making love to this guy. You can’t see her, they can see the tops of the corn, and then the language goes on. … It’s all about corn. And I had a guy say I’ll never see corn the same way.”
Unlike Philip Roth, who announced recently he was done with fiction, Morrison has no plan to quit. She is working on a new novel but acknowledges she’s having a hard time. The problem isn’t the narrative itself but the time in which she’s set the story — the present, an era she’s still trying to understand.
Morrison, an early endorser of Amazon.com’s Kindle reading device and the author of prize winners including “Song of Solomon,” said she’s not a Luddite and does keep up with the Internet, enough so that she much prefers the nonfiction she reads on blogs to fiction. And she credited the Internet as an information resource.
“It shortens research enormously, months of time you would normally spend in libraries, just trying to read books,” she said.
She cited an example from her most recent novel, set in the 1950s.
“I was looking for documentation for who could not rent or buy property in Seattle,” she said. “And I knew black people couldn’t, but I didn’t have any real examples. But via Google I went through stuff and found these lease arrangements.”
But the digital age can still catch her off guard. When on-stage interviewer Torrence Boone, a Google managing director, casually mentioned that their discussion would be replayed on the Internet, Morrison sounded as if caught in the act.
“You heard me say all that stuff about corn and stuff?” she asked.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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