It is a pleasant misfortune that, because of Toni Morrison's stature as an incomparably meaningful writer—fearless, direct, and weighty (without being obtuse), a writer's whose voice has changed the discourse of the American novel and decisively demonstrated the indispensability of American writers who aren't white and/or male, we tend (or I tend) to forget how utterly sublime is her prose. I could not be a bigger fan of the way Cormac McCarthy unreels those Melvillean sentences of sempiternal grandeur, but Jesus H. Christ, he has nothing on Toni Morrison.
And the maddening thing is, I can't really even begin to describe or categorize or parse just how her prose becomes this exquisite fabric. If it did not connote a certain foreboding and forbiddingness, I would compare it to the ruins of Machu Pichu—for like those great slabs, there is no place to stick one's knife into to wedge open a crack from which one can assess the inner workings of the architect's craft. Every word lies next to its neighbors as if they could not be parted. But it is not, or it does not seem to be, that Morrison selects the right words. It is that words seem to become right by her use, commensurate to her need, to their need, to ours.
But the grace of her prose is not a product of her diction or its effects—it is the product of a deeper, more holistic process of selection. I would not characterize it as word painting, for it is patently not, nor is it minutely realist—Morrison never seems to be hunting for a description or a detail as even the best (i.e. most exact realists) cannot entirely avoid doing from time to time. Morrison's words in fact disappear even as you marvel at their dexterity and appropriateness—one is quickly left with the emotion behind the words, but these emotions are not in the least raw, worked over by the perfection of her prose, and yet the lack of rawness does not in any way prevent these emotions from reaching a state of heart-clenching immediacy.