Every break, I make it a point to buy another book in Toni Morrison's long discography. This time, I gathered Sula from the same secondhand bookstore I found Tar Baby last spring. Sula is Morrison's second book, and while I have read nothing in the order of publication, I believe the universe is organizing such encounters.
Her foreword, written in the book's most recent republication, has helped tremendously with my artist statement. I am knowing that though Sula is not Morrison's strongest book, and will not be my favorite, it is the book she took chances with. She knew she had nothing to lose, and no real hope to truly gain, and this freed her. This gives Sula the ability to act as a prologue to her later work; not only does the reader meet characters Morrison organizes in later work (albeit, not the exact same characters), but can see specific themes manifesting. Morrison mentions this work as an aesthetic piece, rather than the political writing her "contemporaries" were doing. And though Sula is not the peak of, the absolute essence of what Morrison writes, her "classic" work, it is the imminent of.
This second book—anybody's second book, really—is the most important. Where does one truly go after their first? First novel, first idea, first project? On to the second. Once second is down, third and fourth and fifth come, et cetera. The artist can find her "classic" work, and the work that moves beyond that. It is up to that second to solidify a track, a reason to keep making. The second, an ungraceful grip on the reason for making her art.