The New York Times

Jazzed

THIS COLLECTION, SPANNING FOUR DECADES OF TONI MORRISON’S CAREER, CEMENTS HER STATUS AS ONE OF AMERICA’S SUPREME LITERARY INNOVATORS.

“The Source of Self-regard: Selected Essays, Speeches and Meditations”

By Toni Morrison

350 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $28.95.

In 1982, when I was a 24-year-old reporter at The Boston Globe, I was sent to cover Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year ceremony. The award that year went to the jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. The ceremony took place in a theater packed with students. When Fitzgerald stood at the podium to offer her thanks, a young voice suddenly piped out, “Sing, Ella!” A second student shouted, “Please sing, Ella!” A chorus quickly enveloped the room. “Sing, Ella!” they shouted, “Sing, Ella, sing!”

I watched, fuming. Fitzgerald had already sung. She sang for 40 years. In clubs and juke joints, at weddings and dances, in sweatboxes, filthy bars and rancid watering holes, even at a Harvard class reunion two decades before. As a child, she was a musical genius, born with perfect pitch. When she was 15,

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