When she looked at you and addressed you by your Christian name, she made it sound like a promise, one that stood on the side of everything that was juicy, smart, black, amused, yours. In the old days, when ladies were “colored” and she herself was just a child, she had learned from those ladies, probably, the same eye-rolling, close-mouthed look of incredulity that she employed when she recounted a glaring error of judgment on someone else’s part, or something stupid someone said or didn’t know they were about to say. After she gave you that look, you never wanted to say anything dumb again, ever. If she took you in as a friend—and this was rare in a world where so many people wanted her time and felt they had a right to her time, given the intimacy of her voice—she was welcoming but guarded. Then, if you were lucky enough and passed the criteria she required of all her friends, which included the ability to laugh loud and long at your own folly, and hers, too, she was less guarded, and then very frank: there was no time for anything but directness.
As she described this or that, she drew you in not just by her choice of words but by the steady stream of laughter that supported her words, until, by the end of the story, when the scene, people, weather, were laying at your feet, she would produce a fusillade of giggles that rose and fell and then disappeared as she shook her head.
Finished The Bluest Eye, the first novel she wrote. Like Oprah, I feel I've been enhanced by her language.
I enjoy watching her interviews. Her voice is soothing. Mavis Nicholson's 1988 interview with her is one of my favorites.