Toni Morrison Has Some Words for the New York Times

Photo: Dimitris Legakis/Corbis

Reading the New York Times is an interactive experience for novelist Toni Morrison. She edits her copy with a pencil while she reads, scratching out words and inserting alternatives, she told The New Yorker’s Hilton Als last night at the magazine’s annual festival.

The exercise would seem fitting for the former Random House editor, but it’s really a response to what she perceives as the media becoming more “manipulative” with words. “I remember when the New York Times started using the word 'try.' So-and-so tried to. No one ever does anything,” she explained. “They don't say the Treasury Department, they say Obama. Language is kind of manipulated and strangled in such a way that you get the message although the veneer of accuracy and forthrightness is there.” But Morrison insists she isn’t just picking on the Times, saying they’re not the only ones. “I know that there’s a difference between the received story, not just in the press, but also on TV, and what is actually going on.”

Morrison’s new book, God Help the Child, is out now. Get your pencil ready and you can read her novel the same way she reads the Times.