Gerri: I read [Sula] and I thought, 'Okay, that's a nice book. I'm glad I read it.' And I put it down. Then I thought, 'This can't be one of [Oprah's] top choices of books [if it left me] feeling that way!'
Oprah: You didn't get it the first time.
Gerri: I thought there must be something else. ... When I read it again, I was almost a little angry because I was so sad. I wanted something else to happen to [Sula and Nel]. I knew that you were trying to teach us about women and friendship and motherhood, and I wanted them to find that.
Oprah: Don't read Toni if you just want a happy ending! Don't read Toni! People say, 'Oh, you don't have a happy ending.' Well, when do you? This is reality.
Toni: It's about thinking. It's about living your life. Happy endings are insulting in a way when there's something much more interesting [in] how you negotiate your life with other people.
Lori: Real life.
Toni: Real life. That's the interesting stuff. It's like if you have a choice between the flat line and the one that goes like this [indicating up and down], I hope you choose the one that's up and down. You've got this life. You have to respect the work you do and get in it.
Lori: I absolutely agree with the line image. I tell my students, 'Make sure you play in the deep end of the pool. It's much more interesting!'
What does Toni love about reading?
Toni: Stories don't close for me. I just get rid of the cast of characters. ... I hope [books] are like music in the sense that you hear something in Beloved when you're 17 for certain reasons, and then you don't you hear it for a while. Then when you're 27, you hear it again, but it's an entirely different piece of music. What's happening is that the musician has arranged it so that you could grow on it. The musician has made it so that when you read it 20 years later, it isn't that the music's changed...it's that you did. That's always been what I love about reading certain books. Later on, here I am, a new reader with different experiences, a different ear. Now I know what that relationship, whatever it is, is really like. You see?
Oprah That is so much the truth, I cannot tell you! That is how I feel every time I pick up one of your books. I could cry right now. Even last night, when I was rereading Sula again, knowing that you were going to be here, I thought, 'I just read it a month ago and I've come back, and there's a whole other layer!' That's the best explanation I've ever heard.